What companies can learn from “ Back to the future ” (Part I)

What companies can learn from “ Back to the future ” (Part I)

If you listen to the latest rumor in Corporate Town nowadays, Agile is proclaimed to be the new religion and everyone who does not convert to it now will be obsolete tomorrow. So you immediately have to rephrase your status meetings and steerco’s to “demo’s” and “heartbeats”, your department to “tribes” and quarterly planning to a “PI session” where the whole company is invited.

“ What? Is your IT department still not working in Scrum teams that delivers your project in sprints? You must be out of your mind! “

In my opinion, the world has gone mad nowadays. Agile is not new, it’s not a religion with one single source of truth, working in Scrum teams, implementing the Spotify model or scaling to SAFe does not “make” you Agile and just changing the names of your rituals creates a fuss!!



I do believe in the Agile mindset though and acknowledge the power that the Scrum framework (or other) can offer, but refuse to go out on the street and evangelize these as the single source of truth. I rather spend my time watching the epic trilogy “ Back to the future” to learn how companies can inspect their work and adapt smoother to a changing environment with more fun. In this first part:

Your old machine is crap, buy a new one!

Just look at the way Doctor Emmet Brown created the DeLorean time machine in 1985. He did not have an extensive big plan up front. Instead of that, he built it based on trial and error. From the already very attractive car that the DeLorean is, he transformed it into something even cooler. A time machine!!

Most of the so-called “corporate dino companies” of today, who face the challenges of the future, are also basically still cool and functioning machines. After all, they have not done so well for so long just like that. They too were once build based on trial and error. After their start, they improved their vehicle steadily part by part to make it better and more advanced every year. That worked perfectly fine in the past. The exponential changing demands and expectations of today and tomorrow just seem to ask for another strategy.

Too many companies nowadays are told by fancy consultancy firms that they are outdated and have to rebuild the whole company to face the challenges that are coming.

In the 1985 film, there was a similar challenge for Doc Brown in his attempt to travel through time. Instead of building a completely new time machine though, he tackles this challenge differently. He takes the well-functioning DeLorean as a base and builds an extra component, the “Flux Capacitor” in the car. The car itself still drives on the proven technology of a petrol engine, only the Flux Capacitor (which would run on plutonium in 2015 according to the film) provided the boost needed to generate the necessary 1.21 Jigowatt at 88 Mph. to be able to jump in time.

For nowadays companies I think it is also wise not to throw all the good and valuable things from the past away to quickly because ‘everyone says we have to do it completely different now’. I would advise instead do a good assessment first to see what is already in place and based on that get a clear view of the items that have to be in your Flux Capacitor.

Even more so, how the Flux Capacitor works exactly is not explained in any of the films, although Doc reveals that the stainless-steel body of the DeLorean contributes to the functioning of the Flux Capacitor. Just like an Agile transition needs a reliable casing to be able to have swift adjustments without harming the stability of the company.

So, to be able to jump in time, you most likely really DO need to change something fundamentally! Only, before you run off to buy a new machine, better take a good look first on what is already there and build on that.

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