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.