Wheels. They are an astounding invention. The modern bicycle is a stunning feat of innovation and engineering. Light. Strong. Capable. Efficient. And to a degree, complicated: it only really works with some baseline of mechanical integrity.

Around the world, people have figured out that bikes get them from point A to point B faster and more efficiently than walking. In addition to increased speed, the efficiencies of bicycles enable effort to be leveraged to carry more weight than a single person could. To do all these things, bicycles need regular attention by someone with at least basic mechanical skills.

And if you give a person a bike with flat tires these promises will not be fulfilled. In fact it might be just the opposite.

Agile practices are also an astounding discovery, ideally shifting the focus from tools and process to the people using the tools and engaging the process. Productively used, agile leverages the best of an organization's people and continuously develops them into better contributors and collaborators, which in turn creates more innovation and quality.

The key is "productively." Simply giving a team improved engineering practices or agile processes without a corresponding attention to the people and how they come together is a lot like giving someone trying to get between two points a bicycle. Especially if that bike needs a few basic things, like air in the tires, to make it rideable. And not giving them any knowledge or understanding about how to maintain the bike itself.

Organizations that adopt agile without sufficient knowledge is akin to that person. The bike will be given a try, though shown to be frustrating and inefficient in its mechanically deficient state, and tossed aside for walking.

All for lacking some simple knowledge, and a willingness to learn, how to just pump up the tires.

Over time, excellent agilists teach and lead just enough to have those they serve pick up new skills and awareness. They take the time and effort to show how and why to use the tools and process to deliver value. And eventually, those they work with are able to ride all on their own.


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