The Toyota Production System (TPS) provided Toyota with a distinctive competitive advantage, disrupting General Motors’ (GM) dominance in the American automotive market and catalyzing innovation across industries. When dissecting Toyota’s success, the discussion tends to focus around the standardization of work, continuous flow, waste reduction, and relentless improvement — items associated with Lean Manufacturing today. That is because many of us have been taught that Lean Manufacturing is rooted in the Toyota Production System. However, these notions predate Toyota’s 1937 founding, and can be observed decades earlier in the 1913 Ford Assembly Line.
Understanding human motivation is a perpetual puzzle, even in an age where scientific advancements have unraveled many mysteries of our world. Physiological research has shed light on some aspects, revealing, for instance, that even though the brain pretty consistently burns 20% of our caloric budget, thinking burns only a trivial amount of caloric energy. Even if thinking doesn’t create a caloric deficit, it is known that our executive function has limits. For decades we believed in a concept of ego depletion, suggesting a finite willpower reserve, but those findings have been challenged by recent studies highlighting the significant role belief plays in driving behavior. However, the limits of executive function and the complexities of sustained attention remain veiled, contributing to the enigma of mental fatigue.
In recent years, I’ve had numerous opportunities to share my insights through various talks, with one becoming more popular than others – “The Velocity Trap.” This particular presentation, shared over a dozen times in public forums, emerged from my observations within the technology circles I frequent and the clients and companies I have worked with. Despite the prevalence of terms like Scrum, sprints, story points, and SAFe, there was a noticeable lack of awareness regarding the Agile Manifesto, prompting me to embark on a mission of evangelization.
It has been said that leading others is a privilege that is earned not a right. In this instance, the word “privilege” refers to “an honor,” “appreciation,” or “a source of pleasure granted,” however, in our modern lexicon privilege tends to mean “a right, immunity, or benefit enjoyed by a particular person.” This dual meaning is fitting because to be a leader is a privilege by both definitions. This type of privilege is known as “authority” and in cybersecurity an authority is a grouping of privileges, which only increases the appropriateness when one considers the many privileges afforded to people in a position of authority.
I have often proposed that organizations need more Agilist Leaders. By this, I mean individuals who embody the principles and values defined in the Agile Manifesto. Agile represents a learning culture, and cultures are established from the top. In essence, your organization’s CEO should also be its CCO, Chief Culture Officer. We desperately need more Agile minded leaders to ascend the corporate ladder if there’s any hope for lasting adoption and a paradigm shift across the industry. However, what I have observed from my own experience and heard anecdotally from others is that agile leaders often struggle in their roles due to entrenched norms of selfism, convoluted political systems, and legacy Tayloristic ideals.
Indoctrinating anti-agility into our children from an early age is a pervasive issue that silently hinders corporate America today, placing leaders and organizations at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to constructing impactful products and fostering high-performing teams. The source of this predicament is such a staple to modern society that people don’t even realize it – it’s our education system. The erroneous lessons ingrained in the average person are so deeply rooted that Agile Coaches are dedicating a substantial amount of time to “unschool” modern workers.