Schlagwort-Archive: Metaphor

BMX – the ideal metaphor for agility

Bicycles are a good example of how everything is becoming more and more fragmented. Here a small change and there a new principle and I already have a recumbent that connects a relaxed seating position with even therapeutic effects, increases safety and lowers the effects of accidents. The so-called track bicycle is designed to turn consistently fast laps – without brakes and gear shift. Due to the support of an electric drive, more and more people have rediscovered the bicycle, the e-bike. The technical possibilities are brought to the limits with the BMX bike – special materials and everything that increases the stability of axles, fork, crank and pedals.
The BMX bike shows its strengths in any terrain, in the city and in the hall. The riders master their bikes in all imaginable situations – halfpipes, stairs, and mountain tops and in the forest. This makes BMX (Bicycle Motocross) the ideal metaphor for agility.

However, the benefits of the BMX bike do not automatically make it the best bike for all applications. The same applies to agility in the company. Agility is hard to get working in the following cases.

  • Governance is binding
    The corset of rules and standards take companies the creative breath away. There is no room for agility, as innumerable external and internal regulations must be followed. The agile employees run the risk to break one or the other law out of ignorance – which of course constitutes misbehavior of the employee. Imagine a BMX rider worrying about compliance – and agility is nipped in the bud.
  • Processes set a stable framework
    The procedures are the determined steps for the most effectual action. Doing the right thing right is the corresponding mantra. After many years, these processes have been buried deep into a company. Always the same procedure can be handled in the shortest possible time with the least effort. Special cases bounce off the crash barriers and are therefore made impossible. Let’s imagine a BMX rider on a highway – and his willingness to bring in agility evaporates.
  • Hierarchs will not let go
    Big companies have a natural tendency to build a hierarchy. The officials receive special privileges – selected rewards and insignia of power (e.g., company cars, assistants, bonuses). They should make decisions, lead others and be responsible for the results. If you leave the task, the authority, and responsibility to the employees, it leads to fear of loss of the bosses, because they do not recognize what would continue to justify their status. Imagine a BMX rider who has to get permission to change direction – and all the manifestations of agility disappear.
  • Micro managers strive for total control
    A more complicated special case are the micro managers, who interpret their task in such a way that they have to influence everything down to the smallest detail (see also here). Cutting a long story short: Imagine the BMX rider with someone who constantly grabs the wheel – and already the agility lies on the ground.
  • Who doesn’t act at all makes no mistakes
    It is clear that the big companies counteract the image of the business servant. The path of least resistance is the result of our natural anxiety that is deeply rooted in our brain stem. There are many arguments to avoid acting and thereby making no mistakes – except perhaps the mistake of doing nothing. If one is then required by superiors to act in a certain way, they have the responsibility. Imagine a BMX rider who is afraid to fall – and immediately any potential for agility freezes.

Bottom line: Of course, everybody wants the autonomous, self-employed, risk-taking employee, who would not be much different than a BMX rider. At the same time, the path in which the riders should move is cemented with regulations. On the flag is written agility. However, the conditions are against this approach. Strict governance limits the leeway. Processes and their IT implementations determine every step. The leaders are not ready to let go and involve themselves at all levels. The employees have found their workaround – around the work. Agility can not function with these conditions. Just as a BMX rider can not act properly in a straitjacket. Since BMX clarifies the boundaries of the entrepreneurial actions of individual employees, BMX is the ideal metaphor for agility.

The Ice cover – the ideal metaphor for risk

As soon as the temperatures fall below zero, an ice cover forms on water. In standing waters faster than in wild ones. Over time, more and more ice crystals arise and the ice cover is getting thicker. The rule of thumb indicates that a single person can enter an ice cover of at least 5 cm. About 18 cm is sufficient for cars to go onto the ice surface. From the shore you can neither see the bearing capacity nor the depth of the underlying water. Whether and where it is safe is pure speculation. In this respect the ice cover is similar to a risk.

Although it is possible to imagine ice covers and risks, it always is only estimation whether the worst will happen or not. In both examples, the following aspects should be considered.

  • Probability
    In all cases, the probability of occurrence is 100% as soon as the worst happens and the risky initiative fails, which actually is no longer a prediction – be it crossing a frozen lake or building a new airport. A reliable prediction is possible, if you even do not put yourself in that danger. Then the probability of occurrence is 0%. The remaining incidents can not be predicted reliably in terms of time or space. There is no choice but to prepare appropriate contingency plans depending on the foreseeable case. Hedges on the ice cover can be a safety rope or a prepared ladder, which bring you out of the danger zone. In business, appropriate measures are put in place to reduce the occurrence probability. Alternatively resources are prepared to counteract in the event of a crisis by shortening the damage duration and reducing the damage.
  • Possible damage
    The consequences of an adverse event differ according to their level of damage. An incident can in the worst case cost the life – by drowning in the water, because you can not breathe in the required time frame; or when you lose in business due to wrong speculations, because you have misinterpreted the signs of the times, ignored the Internet with your mail-order business and eventually the entire company faces bankruptcy. If there is no incident, then the potential size of the loss does not matter. The actual damage that can occur between these two extremes is hard to predict, because most of the time you cannot see the real consequences. The size of contingency preparation depends on the player in the decision maker – more or less rope and ladder on the ice cover or provisions in the business.

Dealing with the thickness of the ice cover and risks burdens. On the one hand, you are hampered by a rope and burdened by the transport of the ladder. On the other hand, resources are blocked in case of the worst and thus are no longer available for daily business. In both cases, preparation ensures viability.

Bottom line: Dealing with frozen waters and with risks consists of similar issues. On the one hand, it has to be estimated what the probability of an incident is. On the other hand, the possible amount of damage has to be assessed. Both are estimates that could be wrong. From the outside, the ice surface gives no indication of possible dangers. Exactly as the daily business does not provide indicators that it can come to a surprising slump. It is irresponsible when no presuppositions are made, because then you will be surprised by the harmful event – you break in the ice or suffer serious business losses. These similarities make the ice cover the ideal metaphor for a risk.