Twice this month, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with companies who are just barely over a year into their transition to Agile. I asked the leaders from each business what Organizational Debt had surfaced since having stepped away from Waterfall. Both of them responded to my question with a question. In fact, each of these leaders within two different industries asked me the exact same question.”What is Organizational Debt?”
My assumption was that the disconnect was likely around the term itself. Perhaps there was a different choice of words each would have used to describe the concept of outdated practices and structures.This was not the case. As I broke into thesaurus mode and provided examples of previous client revelations, I learned that neither company had even considered the notion of Organizational Debt. The idea that this glorious disruption of lean delivery could and should extend beyond the development teams, was not something either had considered
The responses that followed reminded me of those perpetual pursuers of weight loss that have yet to find a successful model. We’ve all met at least one of these self-proclaimed health experts. Often times, they’ll explain how one model doesn’t work and why another one will. It doesn’t take long to realize that the flaw is not in any of the models, but instead, in the dieter’s ability to follow the model. More times than not, the dieter feels shorted as they’ve put forth a lot of time with the exercise plan but never changed what they were eating. After all, who wants to give up potato chips and ice cream? Isn’t it enough to complete a 45-minute high intensity workout?
Humans tend to resist change. The unfamiliarity is uncomfortable. We hold on to bits and pieces of what we know and what we’ve always done. Ironically, this is counterproductive to why the change was oftentimes initiated in the first place. When someone wants to lose weight, they must commit in more ways than one. They can’t silo what components they like and don’t like. It’s the same thing when it comes to an organization. We have to look at the big picture and reevaluate everything that is directly and indirectly related. One cannot choose to be narrow minded when vast gains are desired.