In this interview I had the opportunity to talk with Erich Bühler, an Uruguayan by birth who moved to Spain many years ago and from there has been helping several companies in several countries in their transition towards Agility. Erich wrote the book “Leading Exponential Change,” and in the interview, he discussed some of the central ideas of his book.
Erich began by saying that for many companies the goal itself is not to be Agile, but through Agility to be more flexible and to better adapt to highly changing contexts. Speaking of his experience, Erich commented that in the countries and companies where he has been, he saw three common aspects: first, people who do not want to change, second, change happens but under pressure, people return to old habits, and third, in already complex companies, extra complexity is added by introducing heavy frameworks.
Therefore, Erich considers that in order to talk about change, one must talk about how to make people want to change, how to sustain the change over time, and how to simplify instead of increasing complexity.
For Erich, fundamental Agility comes from the Agile Manifesto, and Business Agility is associated with a value chain that ranges from someone having a product idea, to building and commercializing the product, to generating value for everyone. Erich explained, using personas, the different profiles of individuals involved in the creation of a product. He also emphasized that each personas’ educational background influences the way they try to solve a problem or build a product, and that achieving results with a diverse team requires a powerful strategy.
Erich went on to say that to come up with a powerful strategy, a model was needed, like the one he created and presented in his book. Erich’s model has five levels, starting from the bottom up these are:
- Mental agility, which is the ability of a person to be able to see something from different points of view and integrate the values of other people. Erich also theorized that a company where its employees do not have a certain degree of mental agility will not be able to innovate, adapt, or see the market in a different way. Erich also spoke of neuroplasticity, which is the ability of one individual to temporarily assume the values of another and therefore be more flexible of mind.
- Social agility, which is how people connect to achieve a collective result. The lack of social agility prevents the dissemination of important information, communication, and consequently hinders or prevents teamwork.
- Results agility, which refers to how soon the company can change results and how quickly people can adapt.
- Structural agility, which is how companies can change internally without affecting their organizational health.
- Technical agility, which is what many people call Agility, and which is related to Scrum, XP and the other frameworks that Agile contributed.
For Erich, every time you talk about Technical Agility, you first have to think of a powerful strategy that touches the other four levels of his cake model. Erich recommends that as with a cake, companies aim to have a vertical slice and thus cover all the levels that imply the change towards Agility.
Erich closed the interview by recommending that companies start with changing small things that generate a high impact and always keeping in mind the five levels of the cake.