Filthy Fishbowl

I read a really great post over at Mike Cottmeyer's Leading Agile blog.  To paraphrase, he wrote about his son having a fishbowl that was in desperate need of cleaning. He described the situation as

this poor little goldfish was swimming literally in it’s own filth. The water was yellowish brown and just gross.

Mike went on to use the fishbowl as an analogy, to write about an Agile adoption and transformation client. He wrote that it’s easy from an outsiders point of view to see what’s going on, but the folks inside a company have a difficult time seeing how they can transform their environment. The challenge is that sometimes there is so much that has to change to get healthy, it’s difficult to figure out where to start.  If you are that little fish, swimming around in that filthy bowl, how do you even begin to see what can be done about it?  Have you just gotten used to the filth?

If you are in the bowl, how do you imagine getting out of the bowl, emptying the water, cleaning the glass, refilling the bowl, and getting back into a healthy environment?

I would say, if you are that goldfish, either you learn to clean your own bowl, hire someone to do it for you, or you find yourself a new bowl.  There will certainly be some who will choose to swim in their own filth, until it chokes every bit of life out of them.  I see too many analogous goldfish swimming in filth, because they lack the skills necessary to maintain their own bowl, because they believe that someone will someday come and change the water, or they think they can just live with it.

If your fishbowl becomes filthy, what would you do?


HT: Leading Agile