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8Sep/090

The once and future king..

As labour day is winding down,  I am pondering the miracle of self organization.

It has been forgotten and rediscovered many times in the course of human history. A hierarchical system is usually very stable – as long as its composite pieces are happy (or have no choice but) to stay on their assigned places in the hierarchy; the moment a subject moves, the hierarchy crumbles down. Once free will is accepted as founding principle – as it is in most democratic societies today – a hierarchical organization becomes all but impossible. 

Coming down to a 100 feet view, I am looking into my own garden of agile software development. Agile teams by definition do not have fixed roles, the dynamics within the group defines current role that can last through the project, or might change for the next sprint;  there is no manager to assign tasks – this role was taken by Scrum Master (a.k.a agilitator); the group itself would disintegrate once the purpose that had brought them together is fulfilled.

Back to the Labour Day. A 120 years ago, Peter J. McGuire, General Secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, proclaimed the purpose of the holiday as an occasion to honour those "who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold." A human role as organizer of the nature was clearly taken for granted. Fast forward to the present day: a Dutch town of Drachten did away with all the traffic lights in the city, leaving it up to motorists and pedestrians to negotiate the road space. And the number of accidents went down! Agility in action.

I see it in trends where instead of beating the nature into submission the humans learn to “go with the flow”, discovering that there might be a different way. Maybe, we do not need a king, after all; maybe all we need is an agilitator.