The Next Paradigm Shift: From Agile to Future-Fit

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Chapter And Authors Information

Ludwig Melik

CEO of Planbox, Canada Founder of The Future-Fit Manifesto
The Next Paradigm Shift: From Agile to Future-Fit
From the Edited Volume
Edited By:
Professor John Metselaar
Content

Abstract

The nature of work, new technologies, emerging trends, best practices, and regulations are evolving exponentially and in unexpected ways. If the past two decades weren’t enough proof, then 2020 alone reminded us that change doesn’t come knocking at our door, but instead bashes it down, leaving us little or no time at all to pivot accordingly. Disruption comes in many ways, shapes, and forms, but the result is always the same: a shock to the system. Now more than ever, organizations need to adopt a Future-Fit mindset that empowers their Community of employees, customers, partners, academia, and governments to fearlessly navigate through turbulent times and into uncharted space at warp speed.

Twenty years ago, the Agile Manifesto revolutionized the planning and execution of work, and over the years has created an incredible following. Now, the Future-Fit Manifesto proposes a new strategic approach to collaborative work that builds on the Agile movement. This new manifesto provides expert guidance to the freeform organization that looks to become predictive and maintain a relentless focus on driving the next paradigm shift. There are plenty of new and different futures to choose from for those who adopt both the Future-Fit values in the way they live and work, and the Future-Fit principles as the guiding light to shape the world around them.

Introduction

The pace of technology advancements is speeding up exponentially, and it’s getting harder to stay in the game. Increasingly, organizations are facing immense pressure to stay hypervigilant, to be proactive, and to discover new ways to reinvent themselves. Further compounding this challenge are the unforeseen events of 2020; now, more and more executives are plagued with sleepless nights as their organization’s future spirals into the unknown.

We used to think of the future as something far, far away, and long-lasting. That time has become significantly more compressed and is shrinking ever faster. The pressure this places on organizations to reinvent themselves all the time is staggering. You can’t just dream up a future and have a long term plan. To make matters worse, even if you manage to be at the forefront of the next emerging opportunity, there’s no real staying power without having a clear series of second acts to sustain the momentum.

In the late 1990s, as The Age of Customer (Blasingame, 2014) was in full bloom, it was clear that the old ways of working were no longer going to cut it. The strain was specially felt with software development projects, which were becoming a major area of investment for organizations. In 2001, the Agile movement suggested a new way of approaching that work more efficiently. Focusing more on working closely with the client, embracing change, iterating, and experimenting with a minimal viable product was needed to rapidly deliver a better customer experience. It quickly became a standard and was widely adopted as more and more companies thought of themselves as software companies. Other functional areas of the business started to also apply that thinking to how they can deliver with agility.

However, as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Agile Manifesto (Beck et al, 2001) twenty years later, we are living in a drastically different world. And even to this day, many organizations still rely on this approach to develop the agility that allows them to turn on a dime, deliver results, and satisfy customers; but the digital revolution has decimated entire industries and forced wholesale transformations. Agile remains an important part of the equation of course, but a highly fluid, shape-shifting, and fast-moving future requires a resilient mindset — specifically one that not only improves on Agile, but also enables organizations to diverge or converge at a moment’s notice.

Figure 5.1. Adapted Image from SurfupVector (Licensed Adobe Stock Image: 331122611)

This is what the Future-Fit Manifesto (Melik et al, 2021) is all about. The Future-Fit Manifesto declares a new strategic approach that builds on Agile and proposes a fresh set of values and principles for organizations to explore new possibilities, seek new frontiers, and boldly create new futures. Put simply, this manifesto is a blueprint for organizations to proactively shape their future, over and over again. To adopt this distinct mindset, organizations, with their Community of employees, customers, partners, academia, and governments, should start embracing the following four values:

  • Collaborative culture over individuals and interactions
  • Innovative systems over working software
  • Discovering opportunities over customer collaboration
  • Creating alternate futures over responding to change

It’s important to note that while there is value in the Agile items on the right, the Future-Fit items on the left should be valued more.

These simple yet imperative values are the lifeblood of Future-Fit organizations. 2020 is the proof: organizations that were already embracing these values not only survived, but also thrived in the market. A lot has changed since, so much so that for many it feels like ten years went by in the last 12 months. The silver lining though is that we’re now on fertile ground for new ideas, new business models, and new practices.

Everyone is looking to become the next unicorn with that next big idea that will flip the market on its head. To make this dream a reality, organizations must start embracing a collaborative culture that involves all internal and external stakeholders to build intimate connections, to nurture engagement, and to encourage human-centric and innovation-led conversations. As we enter the Age of Innovation, the time is ripe to shape the future and own our destiny. The Future-Fit Manifesto puts forth a blueprint that allows us to achieve just that and much more, so future-focused leaders can expect their teams to reach new depths of creativity, adaptivity, and resilience that empower them to overcome anything and everything that gets thrown their way.

Figure 5.2. Adapted Image from Project Management Institute & Dr. Ahmed Sidky’s Agile Mindset

But being a fast follower is simply no longer enough. You can’t imitate the next unicorn anymore. Being predictive means an organization must lead its future in self-disruption, explore different opportunities constantly, and take a leap of faith to create the next paradigm shift.

Organizations need to rethink, reinvent, and refocus their systems to thrive in this new hyperdigital world, and the underlying processes have to be reimagined and rebuilt. Quick fixes that do not address the fundamental constraints of being truly digitally native will be only bolt-on solutions that constrain the adaptivity, creativity, and resilience required to be Future-Fit. In the art of the possible, it’s the growth mindset that rules.

The Values — Starting with a Future-Fit Mindset

Figure 5.3. Adapted Image from Dr. Ahmed Sidky’s Agile Mindset

More than ever before, organizations can ensure their core values and principles match the future they want to create. Let’s take a deeper look at the Future-Fit values, which build on Agile and establish a Future-Fit mindset that is paramount in the Age of Innovation:

Collaborative Culture over Individuals and Interactions

Individuals and interactions offer limited future readiness as everyone follows agile processes. Future-Fit organizations foster a culture of collaboration that is built on trust and rewards creativity, learning, and success; this collaborative ethos is the foundation of sustainable and continuous innovation, as well as adaptability. In a fast-forward world, the focus is to drive real productivity inside the organization by building a stronger network with the outside world. This means creating a deep connection with the Community of employees, customers, partners, academia, and governments, and nurturing that relationship on an ongoing basis. A Future-Fit culture is not how individual teams get work done with the customers of today, but rather how the organization must scale to be a responsible corporation that delivers on short to long-term goals. A thriving Community is one that is rich in diversity and inclusivity, and at the center of how a future-fit organization gets influenced and inspired to deliver on new improvements and innovations.

Innovation Systems over Working Software

Working software focuses on getting a defined deliverable to a functional state. Future-Fit organizations also value building and improving an innovative system that constantly produces the desired solutions. Creating traceability from strategy to delivery enables organizations to be more adaptive and resilient by proactively responding to disruptions, new regulations, and unavoidable future evolutions. Future-fitness is augmented by building systems that support environments conducive to innovative thinking and which empower people to operate free of disruptive command and control structures. Community interactions should happen naturally with whatever means of communication feels right in the moment given the constraints, whether it is online or in person. Future-fit organizations measure progress based on the value that is generated for stakeholders through innovative solutions while taking into consideration strategic alignment and market relevance, as well as environmental, social, and governance impacts. Building the plane while flying it means that reflection and learning happen instinctively and a new course is set as needed to ensure the organization continually takes advantage of future opportunities.

Discovering Opportunities over Customer Collaboration

Collaborating with customers on a deliverable is important but it provides a limited view of their immediate needs. Future-Fit organizations pursue a customer-obsession strategy by actively uncovering new opportunities based on emerging trends and technologies, and by listening to all feedback to delight stakeholders, build trusted relationships that last a lifetime, and create value. Future-fit organizations look to build a strategic portfolio of impactful innovations that help future-shape the business while simultaneously running it. Looking around the corners to identify blindspots and explore opportunities means constantly developing insights through a discovery process that factors in emerging trends, regulations, and governance. Community interactions give rise to new thinking and work methodologies that help the organization achieve its mission.

Creating Alternate Futures over Responding to Change

Responding to change is not enough. Being a fast follower does not ensure resilience. Future-Fit organizations predict and anticipate possible scenarios, customer behavior, market needs and other elements not in their control to decide which business models and future states are most desirable. It is crucial to embrace growth strategies by taking advantage of any disruptions. Seeking change is the mantra, and this is accomplished by proactively surveying emerging trends and technologies to develop sustainable value that is mindful of societal impacts. Being able to go fast when needed and then slow down when warranted requires discipline. Future-fit is not a sprint, but rather a mix of 100 meter dashes to ultra marathons that need to be carefully planned and executed over time, or just delivered with great agility depending on the situation. Persistence to innovate for the future means that changemakers are looking ahead to ensure ongoing creativity, adaptivity, and resilience while delivering on the business that matters today.

Figure 5.4. The four core values evolving from linear, to agile, to future-fit

Adopting a Future-Fit Strategy by Following Twelve Principles

Just as crucial as the Future-Fit values are its principles. Like Agile, the Future-Fit Manifesto proposes twelve equally important principles that must be embraced in order to achieve and maximize future-fitness:

Principle One: Delight stakeholders through continuous delivery of unique and valuable solutions

Agile placed an emphasis on continuous delivery to keep customers satisfied by making sure they received working solutions on an ongoing basis. Future-Fit organizations, on the other hand, invest in the continuous innovation of today’s and tomorrow’s stakeholder experiences. They realize stakeholder aspirations, delivering short to long-term business value with environment, social, and governance considerations.

Principle Two: Welcome creativity and learning all the time. Future-Fit processes harness change for the greater good or to gain strategic advantage.

Agile welcomed changes in requirements to meet the customers’ new realities. Future-Fit organizations are trailblazers that consistently harness creativity and explore how changing trends and technologies can be leveraged to develop radical innovations for the strategic advantage of the organization, its Community, and for the good of society at large.

Principle Three: Shape the future through a range of initiatives, from quick wins to long shots, with a preference for game-changing opportunities.

Agile helped teams and companies deliver working solutions quickly and iteratively in short sprints. Future-Fit organizations proactively and iteratively plan and act on a range of short, medium, and long-term innovations. This portfolio approach fundamentally transforms the business, enabling the organization to prepare for expected changes or deal with unexpected disruptions.

Principle Four: The organization must continuously cocreate with the Community.

Agile connected businesspeople and developers together to improve communication throughout the project. Future-Fit organizations build a Community that continuously works together not only on project delivery but also on improvements and innovations. The more diverse and inclusive this Community is, the more the organization can access and leverage the broadest possible range of perspectives, enabling it to deliver new solutions and offerings to the marketplace.

Principle Five: Build systems that support a diverse and inclusive culture. Unboss the environment; trust and motivate everyone to deliver long-term results.

Agile processes depend on self-reliant and motivated individuals who work as a team and collaborate with customers directly. Future-Fit organizations nurture a culture that supports radical new thinking, champions transformative change and experimentation by striving for innovation excellence. They leverage mechanisms of engagement to motivate individuals inside and outside the organization while ensuring a psychologically safe environment.

Principle Six: The most efficient and effective method of sharing information with your Community is a mix of digital and in-person communication.

With Agile, face-to-face conversations were the optimal method for communicating information. Future-Fit organizations promote human interactions, both digital and in-person. They develop authentic connections between individuals that maximize collaboration and content sharing with Communities spread across different geographies, time zones, locations, and tools.

Principle Seven: Innovative solutions that realize stakeholders’ aspirations are the primary measure of progress.

Agile was built on developing working software that led to a minimal viable product (MVP) in as little time as possible. Future-Fit organizations deliver relevant value to key stakeholders while considering environmental, social, and governance impacts.

Principle Eight: Future-Fit processes promote sustainable growth and development. Everyone can fearlessly contribute and change pace given the context.

Agile promoted continuous collaboration between sponsors, developers, and users to maintain sustainable project development. Future-Fit organizations design and create systems that encourage everyone in the Community to not only collaborate on existing projects, but also regularly lead and participate in innovation activities with a fearless, growth mindset.

Principle Nine: Continuous attention to emerging trends, regulations and governance enhances future-fitness.

Agile processes are optimized and improved by paying attention to technical excellence and good design. Future-Fit organizations continuously improve their systems, innovation culture, and capabilities by paying close attention to best and future practices, regulations, and standards.

Principle Ten: Innovation — the art of relentlessly challenging the status quo — is essential.

With Agile, work that is not done is captured in the backlog — the team works on what is important with the resources available. Future-Fit organizations are as creative as they need to be, constantly take risks to achieve new resilience, adaptability and competitive capabilities while keeping an eye on what matters in the short-term.

Principle Eleven: The best models, methods, and concepts emerge from Community interactions.

Agile is focused on building the best architecture, requirements, and designs by self-reliant and capable teams. Future-Fit organizations build and nurture an extended Community that engages in mission-specific interactions. These interactions lead to the discovery of insights and opportunities, the acquisition of knowledge and the development of the best models, methods, and concepts.

Principle Twelve: At all times, the organization reflects on how to become more Future-Fit, then tunes and adjusts its behavior and systems accordingly.

With Agile, the team gets together regularly to understand what they could have done better and agrees on what they will do differently next time. Future-Fit organizations incorporate learning into their core systems and behavior so that they continuously recalibrate their tools, processes, and culture to reshape their desired future.

 

Figure 5.5. A summary of the twelve agile principles (left) versus the twelve future-fit principles (right)

Conclusions

The nature of work, new technologies, emerging trends, best practices, and regulations are evolving exponentially and in unexpected ways. If the past two decades weren’t enough proof, then 2020 alone reminded us that change doesn’t come knocking at our door, but instead bashes it down, leaving us little or no time at all to pivot accordingly. Disruption comes in many ways, shapes, and forms, but the result is always the same: a shock to the system. Now more than ever, organizations need to adopt a Future-Fit mindset that empowers their Community of employees, customers, partners, academia, and governments to fearlessly navigate through turbulent times and into uncharted space at warp speed.

Figure 5.6. Adapted Image from Carol Dweck’s Growth Mindset

Twenty years ago, the Agile Manifesto revolutionized the planning and execution of work, and over the years has created an incredible following. Now, the Future-Fit Manifesto proposes a new strategic approach to collaborative work that builds on the Agile movement. This new manifesto provides expert guidance to the freeform organization that looks to become predictive and maintain a relentless focus on driving the next paradigm shift. There are plenty of new and different futures to choose from for those who adopt both the Future-Fit values in the way they live and work, and the Future-Fit principles as the guiding light to shape the world around them.

Acknowledgment

We extend our gratitude to these forward-looking thought leaders who worked tirelessly and passionately to bring you the Future-Fit Manifesto:

Ludwig Melik, Chief Executive Officer, Planbox

Rudolf Melik, Director of Strategy, Planbox

John Metselaar, Professor of Management Practice in Leading & Living Innovation, Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management

Margo Visitacion, Vice President and Principal Analyst, Forrester Research

Alice de Casanove, Chairperson, ISO TC 279 Innovation Management — ISO 56000 Series

Gijs van Wulfen, Founder, FORTH Innovation Institute

Raphael H. Cohen, Academic Fellow, University of Geneva

Brett Trusko, Chief Executive Officer, International Association of Innovation Professionals

Anthony Mills, Executive Director, Global Innovation Institute

Cris Beswick, Co-Founder, Innovation Advisory Firm OUTCOME

Rick Freedman, Enterprise Agile Consultant, Bank of America

Scott Kirsner, Chief Executive Officer & Co-Founder, Innovation Leader

Prof. Ashley George, President & Founder, Tech For Good

Heather Wishart-Smith, Senior Vice President, Technology & Innovation, Jacobs

Hiro Hishiguchi, Chief Executive Officer, Japan Innovation Network

Dr. Charles Chao Rong Phua, Chief Executive Officer, Solaris Strategies Singapore

Jean-Yves Reynaud, Systemic Coach & Agile Consultant, Connect’up

Thornton May, Founder, Futurist & Executive Director, The Digital Value Institute

Rick Fernandez, President, 20-20 Innovation, Inc

Frank Voehl, Administrator US TAG for Innovation ISO 50500, International Association of Innovation Professionals

Hans Balmaekers, Founder, Innov8rs

Shawn Nason, Chief Executive Officer, Disruptor League

Lee R. Lambert, Chief Executive Officer, Lambert Consulting

Stephanie Robertson, Founder & Chief Executive Officer, SiMPACT

Tom Brazil, Chief Digital & Innovation Officer, Integrated Computer Solutions, Inc (ICS)

Sonia Couture, Editor-in-Chief, Future-Fit Manifesto

Lucas Potasso-Justino, Editor-in-Chief, Future-Fit Manifesto

References

Beck, K. et al (2001). Manifesto for Agile Software Development. Agile Manifesto. http://agilemanifesto.org/

Blasingame, J. (2014). The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance. SBN Books.

Dweck, C. S. (2007). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (Illustrated ed.). Ballantine Books.

Melik, L. et al (2021). Manifesto for Future-Fit Organizations. Future-Fit Manifesto. http://futruefitmanifesto.org/

Project Management Institute. (2017). Agile Practice Guide (New edition). Project Management Institute.

Smith, G., & Sidky, A. (2009). Becoming Agile: ...in an imperfect world (1st ed.). Manning Publications.

SurfupVector. (2021). Human evolution from monkey to cyborg. Primate, ancestor, caveman, homo sapience, disabled man with prosthesis, robot. Vector illustration for anthropology, history, development. [Illustration]. https://stock.adobe.com/ca/images/human-evolution-from-monkey-to-cyborg-primate-ancestor-caveman-homo-sapience-disabled-man-with-prosthesis-robot-vector-illustration-for-anthropology-history-development-concept/331122611

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