Zombie Agility and 3 Antidotes to Eradicate It In Your Organization – Part 1

In this image, two Zombie employees slowly move towards a 3rd human employee. Hopefully, he’s innoculated himself against Zombie Agility through a focus on business outcomes!

Preface: The author assumes the reader has a working understanding of zombies and is open to the possibility they are real. (Hint: They are.)

Disclaimer: “Every analogy breaks down eventually.” – Marc Escobosa,1998.

“Zombie Agility is here. I seen it.” – Erik Cottrell, 2019.

Zombie Agility takes over when the goal of an organization is simply to “go Agile.” Whenever Agile becomes the goal, expect a zombie epidemic. Surprise! It doesn’t just happen at the start of an Agile transformation. 

You know your organization has Zombie Agility when…

  • Your Agile teams are half-animated, joyless, and listless
  • You’re Agile! But you still aren’t seeing desired business results
  • Your colleagues observe lackluster results and disengaged people

Thriving Agility is good. You achieve this when the business goal is to deliver more value, with more predictably, and better learning. In other words, the goal is continuous improvement for customers and employees.

I’ve been a part of Zombie Agility. In fact, I have since learned I contributed to it. It was soul-crushing. It was physically taxing for many of my teams. It nearly broke us. We were not vibrant, growing, or thriving. We often felt like we were sleepwalking through the motions. 

Good news? Zombie Agility has proven antidotes. I hope these antidotes will spark conversations among your teams about how to eradicate the Zombie Agility threat inside your organization.

In today’s article, we’ll start with the first of 3 antidotes–Stay tuned for my articles on the other 2.

Antidote #1: Inoculate your teams against Zombie Agility’s mindlessness by the regular and generous application of compelling Business Outcomes

Mindlessness incubates Zombie Agility. With no clarity of purpose, no compelling results in sight, and no clear objectives, teams start to wander aimlessly. The zombie contagion starts when “doing agile things” becomes the focus, without a clear business result as a goal. Beware of Agile transformations that lack a crisp, mind-sharpening focus on business results. 

The goal of a transformation is not to “go Agile.” You can start to inoculate your organization by banishing that term forever. Instead, the goal for adopting Agile is obtaining better outcomes you can’t get with the way you work now. 

Here are some examples of better Business Outcomes:

  • Market Responsiveness
  • Customer Satisfaction
  • Employee Engagement

Business Outcomes are the goalposts for high-performance teams that use Agile to deliver those valuable outcomes.

Maybe you can see how teams that aren’t inoculated can be infected. As soon as the company decides to “go Agile” without clear Business Outcomes, the minds of team members turn into zombie mush. Like real zombies focusing on “Brains…Brains…Brains,” they’re focusing on “Scrum… Stand ups… Burn downs…Retrospectives…Mmmmmm. ” Their valuable brainpower turns to mindless process compliance. As a result, energy is not invested in better customer experiences or Business Outcomes. 

To treat this, regularly track and communicate progress towards the organization’s desired Business Outcomes.  

These Business Outcomes, delivered with agility, provide:

  • Crucial direction for the organization
  • Clarity to inform better decision making 
  • Collaboration towards shared goals that make work more engaging

Progressing together towards these Business Outcomes instills pride and reinforces teamwork as people strive together for improvement. No room for mindlessness there.

Conclusion

So, to inoculate against mindless Zombie Agility, make the Business Outcomes you seek credible and inspirational. Talk about why they matter as often as you can. You literally cannot under-communicate compelling outcomes. 

“When you’re tired of saying it, people are starting to hear it to hear it.” – Jeff Weiner, Measure What Matters by John Doerr

 

In the next article of this series, I’ll share Antidote #2: Making sure your Agile change agents aren’t infected

 

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