Over lunch yesterday, my son-in-law Phil, talked about business strategy. In a passing comment he mentioned the idea of agile transformation. I was attracted to the term and after awhile went back and asked him what exactly that means.
In software development terms - the old school way of doing things was to have an idea, then spend 6 months thinking about all the ways you and your team want that product to look 2 years from now, all the bells and whistles. Then spend 6-12 months developing the product. Then 6 months testing the product. And then produce, package, market, sell. The customer is at the end of flow - a waterfall affect he said.
Agile transformation style, however, is when someone comes up with an idea and then develops a simple product, not focusing on a three year strategic plan. In the earliest stages the producer engages the customer for feedback. After which, the developer goes back and adds the next levels of the product based on customer feedback. Much like a small business, Phil said. You have to put the customer first seeking feedback constantly to stay in business by meeting the customer's needs. Product and process are more important than industry standards.
Listening to Phil, it dawned on me that the idea of agile transformation has lots of implications for pilgrimage and for the Church.
For pilgrimage - it is one step at a time, constantly monitoring one's progress and then adapting to the path, the body, the experience. Like when Cathy was training so well and then broke her toe six weeks before the trip. She had to change her strategy, be agile. And actually the whole experience, I believe, was agile transformation for her - for me - and I believe will be for everyone else who will witness the pilgrimage experience with her. The individual who has a dream or encounters a problem can be agile and work on the issue on step at a time. Often times we imagine the end result and let that hold us captive. Cathy could have said, well, that's it, I'm done, dream of walking the Wicklow Way is over. She could have thought that even if her toe healed she would never be fit enough to walk the 90 miles. Instead, she used alternative ways to bring quick healing to her toe and in the meantime found different ways to improve her training - she used agile transformation.
For the Episcopal Church, it is using the waterfall process while giving tacit lip service to transformation of any kind, agile included. What if the church were more responsive to the tides of societal change and the needs outside the Club? Of course, that is difficult because we are required to use the "new" 1979 BCP for worship. If I walked out on the street and tried to sell anyone a "new" anything that was developed in 1979 I would be mocked. When will new and alternative means of worship be allowed in the Church? Anyone's guess. Indeed, ancient is instructive, and that's why I love the Church. But's that also why I grow weary of the Church's waterfall method of developing new strategies. The death of the Church of Ireland is a foretaste of what lies ahead for the Episcopal Church. Museum churches serving the dying elderly, while charging tourist to keep the boat float. There must an ancient/future way of thinking, agile transformation thinking, where to two walk side by side. Admittedly, the concept does seem to be cumbersome, maybe near impossible, for an institution, especially one so deeply steeped in the past. So, maybe the idea works better individually and on smaller scales, like the local church? I'll have to keep playing with the idea.
I do see though a good piece in my book on pilgrimage being related to the idea of agile transformation.