Agriculture and Agile. They have more in common than you think.
Modern agricultural practises and agile transformations. Two things that couldn’t have less in common. Right? Maybe not.
There are certain things humans cannot live without. Water is one. Food is the other. Agriculture is probably the most critical industry on Earth. The success of our farming is quite literally life and death. Ironically, agriculture is also one of the biggest polluters on Earth. Greenhouse gas emissions. Soil and water pollution.
Remarkably few crop species make up an enormous percentage of our diet. The result. Millions of acres of monoculture farms. Year after year the crop is cultivated. Whether the land is suitable for it or not. Water is consumed at an astounding rate. Vegans have an axe to grind with meat eaters for the damage meat does to the environment. Some crops aren’t bathed in glory when it comes to their sustainable credentials either.
Pesticides. Herbicides. Petroleum based fertilisers. This is what feeds us. Why?
Thousands of years ago there was a revolution. Humans put down the hunting spear and picked up the garden fork. Agriculture was born. And with it a huge leap in our evolution as a species.
Crops were hardier back then. Roots were deep. They were more resistant to disease and pests. But as the number of mouths grew, the yield had to grow with it. The focus shifted from quality to quantity. And over the millennia we grew more and more reliant on artificial means to maintain the yield. As did the crop itself. Gone are the deep roots. The natural defences to disease and pests. Diversity has been bred out. Polyculture replaced with monoculture to meet the demands of the bottom line.
Climates are different. Soil is different. Plant species are different. One size doesn’t fit all. But it has been made to. To make ends meet.
Organisations are different. Teams are different. People are different. One size doesn’t fit all. So why are some agile transformations cut and pastes of each other? Here’s the manifesto. This is Scrum. Send invoice.
There is a quiet revolution happening in agriculture. Check out The Land Institute. Before setting up a farm they consider the climate, the soil, the plants species. Only once they have the context will they begin. And it will make for a far more sustainable farm in the long run. They test. Seeing what crops work well with each other and adapt as necessary for the greater good of the ecosystem they are building.
If you’re kicking off an agile transformation. In the middle of one. Or think you’re done (you’re not). Consider whether-or-not the ecosystem of your organisation has been truly understood. If it hasn’t, it is likely that your transformation won’t have the desired effect. And you may end up damaging your ecosystem as a result.