Are you old enough to remember the original Karate Kid movie?
In this film, student Daniel (Ralph Macchio) didn’t see how painting a fence would help him to become a karate fighter. But his mentor, Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita), insisted that dumb repetitive activities (such as washing a car and scrubbing the floors) were merely the first steps on a long journey. It made no sense for Daniel to say, “I want to be a karate fighter now!” There is no shortcut to mastery.
Nobody can start a journey at the end. Mastery of any skill starts at the beginning: by adopting the simple behaviors and training the simple movements. Once you have those under your belt, the rest of the journey will be a lot easier.
The End: Crowdsourced Business Agility
The purpose of my new startup, Agility Scales, is to help organizations become “shapeshifters”. This means balancing productivity (control, efficiency, hierarchies) and innovation (freedom, effectiveness, networks). The way we want to achieve this is by building a platform, with an app, that fosters crowdsourced business agility.
We have not achieved this yet.
In fact, we are far from achieving our goal!
Some people look at our current Mind Settlers app (now in alpha stage) and say, “I don’t see how step-by-step work guides will enable organizations to achieve agility at scale. And sure, we understand the confusion! They don’t see the bigger picture. They are like the Karate Kid who doesn’t understand how scrubbing the floors will make him a master in karate.
Every successful large project starts with a successful small project.
The purpose of Facebook is to bring the world closer together. And yet, Facebook started by matching students at just one university: Harvard.
The goal of Amazon is to be the store that sells everything. And yet, they started with only one product type: books.
My goal is to run 50 kilometers per week without injuries. But I started by following instructions from a book about body posture.
A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be patched up to make it work. You have to start over, beginning with a working simple system.
– John Gall
The Beginning: Peer-to-Peer Work Guides
My team must disappoint anyone who says, “I want business agility now!” We cannot start at the end, with a big system. The best place to start is at the beginning, with a small system. For us, that means getting people to share with each other how they do their work, without expecting managers to offer instructions. It also means figuring out how to make such peer-to-peer guidance exciting and motivating for everyone. Once we have mastered this for simple activities, the long road ahead will be much easier to travel.
What we want is real business agility. But we start with simple peer-to-peer work guides.