During the early part of my career I spent a number of years living and working in Ghana, West Africa. Through this I gained a wealth of life experiences, many of which have been influential through my career. This series of articles will introduce you to African Adinkra Agile which has helped me through many years from my journey to Africa and back.

Within Ghanaian culture there is great use made of Adinkra symbols, which are used to represent a range of circumstances and events. They have been in existence for many centuries, with new symbols and proverbs being added to reflect new situations. Traditionally these symbols are printed in repeating patterns on fabric, or carved into wooden ornaments or furniture.

Each adinkra symbol has a meaning and fable associated with them, many of which can be directly linked with modern day business uses.

This series will consider a number of these symbols, and illustrate how they can be linked with an agile mindset.

Adaptability – The Crocodile

Adinkra symbol for adaptability is Denkeyem, the crocodile.

The crocodile lives in the water, yet breathes in the air, demonstrating an ability to adapt to changing circumstances. According to Darwin’s Origins of the Species, those that survive are species that are able to best adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which they find themselves [Megginson (1963)].

A core philosophy of agile working is that the solution being developed needs to be able to flex and adapt. When working in an agile manner, everyone involved needs to welcome and embrace change.

In traditional approaches to delivering products or projects change is often resented, as it is seen as having the potential for delaying the overall delivery and increasing costs. When working in an agile manner, change should be welcomed with the re-prioritisation of development features ensuring that the focus is on delivering the most important feature at any point in time (and potentially not delivering some of the less important ones). This means that the scope of an agile project can adapt and change in line with current priorities, whilst ensuring the project is still delivered on time and in budget.

It is as a result of this adaptability that the concept of crocodiles is used in this new approach to introduce the importance of embracing change in agile thinking.

Come back next week to find out about more African Adinkra Agile fables.