We are surrounded by everyday case-studies of agile.
I was driving to the freeway the other day and a set of traffic lights were out, flashing red, which everyone had to treat as a four-way-stop-sign. You know the deal – traffic was backed up a long way in all directions as cars took it in turns to proceed across one at a time, rotating around the intersection. Not a very productive form of traffic management! Hence the traffic being backed up in all directions. As I not-so-patiently waited my turn, I realized this was another example of the fact that we are surrounded by everyday case-studies of agile and what I call finding-the-agile-middle as an and-proposition of the spectrum laid out above.
- The flashing red lights were at the right hand end of the spectrum. A relatively “unstructured” way of facilitating traffic flow. I know, I know, some of you might make the case that flashing red lights is a structure, the equivalent of a four-way-stop-sign! I agree, so I mean relatively speaking. Relatively un-structured. Flashing red lights is the traffic lights saying that the structured approach which is usually here isn’t working today, so I give up and you guys figure it out!
- When they are operating properly traffic lights are at the left hand end of the spectrum. A relatively “structured” way of facilitating traffic flow, with clearly a productivity gain as we typically don’t have traffic backed up in all directions.
So what’s in the agile-middle, somewhat structured and some what not?
- Roundabouts! Are you aware that roundabouts offer multiple benefits over four-way-stop-signs and traffic lights? Here’s is one of the best overviews from Washington State. In other words, roundabouts offer:
- Improved Productivity of Traffic Flow
- Improved Safety
- Improved Fuel Efficiency
- Reduced Maintenance
- So much so that we are seeing an increasing occurrence of roundabouts instead of traffic lights – roundaboutsusa.com is dedicated to keeping track.
- Even the Myth-Busters agree, at least that roundabouts are better than 4-way stop signs (or a traffic cop for that matter, which they also test, which mimics traffic lights) as a more productive way for cars to proceed through an intersection – over 15 minutes 385 vs 460, which is a 20% improvement. See their video, at the end of which they say, “Time to adopt it America!”
My point is not to debate the merits of roundabouts or four-way stops or traffic lights at greater lengths! Rather, just that this is another example of being surrounded by examples of finding-the-agile-middle. We are never stuck having to choose from an or-proposition of structured or un-structured as mutually exclusive. If only we will inquire about creative approaches right down the middle, which can give us the best of both worlds, we can experience multiple benefits as a win/win/win.
Next time you find yourself and your team lapsing into “or” thinking (which educated analytical people so easily tend to do, without even realizing it), remind them to think … roundabouts!
Read-more about finding-the-agile-middle as an and-proposition at the 3 Dimensions & 3 Core-Concepts of agility, in which I refer to my favorite example of one of the most agile things we can think of … the design of a modern jet-fighter-plane (as an and-proposition of instability and stability all at the same time).