The Business Manifesto

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The Agile Manifesto has spawned a whole slew of methods & practices that took the IT industry by storm. We have a second wave of change coming close on agile’s heels – the New Wave of Management inspired by thinkers like Jurgen Appelo and Steve Denning. Numerous trainers, coaches and “gurus” talk about such things as empiricism, psychology of motivation, employee empowerment, flat org structures etc. Seldom, however, I did see one element addressed which I think is crucial: all that is first and foremost good for business.

To re-iterate what business is all about let me propose a “business manifesto”, which really boils down to one point:

“In business profit is the primary measure of success.”

That is, while other things are very important in the end a business must generate profit in order to stay afloat – let alone be successful.

To be well understood: this is not to say that I endorse unbounded greed and doing anything for the money (as banks & hedge funds did recently almost killing the whole Western economy). A good company – one that I would care to work for – must have some higher goal to attract talent, clients and harbor a healthy culture. However, even in pursuit of that higher goal it must maintain a positive positive cash flow. Otherwise it won’t be able to pay its bills and instead of “putting a dent in the universe” it will just create a huge hole in its owners pockets. And it must generate a profit to even call it a business (as opposed to a charity, a non-profit society, a church – or any other form of organized human activity that is not profit-oriented and hence not a business).

A good, pragmatic leader understands this and is not only about a vision, a higher goal for his company but also carefully checks financial data and makes sure his company stays afloat to realize said goal.

All of this is completely obvious for anyone who ever tried to run a business, especially one founded with his own money. Why then I think it worthy to remind my (few) readers about this obviousness? Because I feel many in the agile world seem to forget about it. Somehow it feels bad to say that besides all the great things new methods bring for the employees they first and foremost boost business.

Understanding and preaching this message is, I think, key to convincing managers (especially executives) that agile methods & new wave management are not a danger but an opportunity.

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