Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: Russell Ackoff

One of my main influencers of 2018: Russell Ackoff

As organizations realize that unlocking Agility involves more than scaling a myriad of Scrum teams, my work required me to explore beyond the thought leaders who defined the Agile Manifesto and more towards thinkers of systems and operations research. But beware, here be dragons: organizational theory dates back to the 1940s and was characterized by the idea that an organization could be best understood by carefully studying each of its pieces — not unlike a machine. Subsequent contributions have evolved our thinking to look at organizations more akin to complex adaptive systems than mechanical devices, so how can operations research possibly be of service? Enter Russell Ackoff.

How Ackoff affects our approach to organizational Agility

What Ackoff is teaching us is that the product of a given system — the essence of what it produces — is not the sum of the behavior of its parts, it’s the product of their interactions. This is quite profound, if you consider the implications: Most efforts to “scale” Agile are focused on coordinating, managing, and synchronizing the various parts of a system through elaborate ceremonies, dependency boards, and quarterly planning sessions.

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