evolvability

Dan North has introduced the term evolvability:

“As an agile process coach, my job is to increase a team’s – or in the case of an Organisational Transformation programme an entire organisation’s – ability to evolve. Taking a cue from Mother Nature, you can’t expect this to occur overnight. The weight of evidence shows that macro-mutations in the process are almost always going to be detrimental. Instead you need to evolve the organisation towards evolvability, or agility, through a series of small steps that are easy and intuitive to grasp.”

Absolutely, and although the old term “adaptability” works better for me, I do agree that the trait is best acquired through evolution. I’m also tempted to qualify a little:

An organism only needs to be evolvable if it seeks longevity and its environmental niche is volatile. Many software development organisations fall into this category – for example, look at the pace of change in the communications markets. But others probably don’t – maybe the pace of change in their niches isn’t so great, or longevity isn’t a concern for them. So while I embrace evolvability adaptability as a concept, I will check first to see whether it is needed.

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