The Agile Coach on Change

 

“Change is good.”

I hear this phrase often. It’s become trite; almost lost its meaning. Many people embrace change. Seek it out, even. It could be a new way of looking at an issue, turning over a new leaf in your personal life, or adopting a new way of working.My experience, however, has been that the majority do not embrace change with gusto. It’s not something they seek out, or are generally happy about. This, I believe, is human nature.

Let’s talk about this from the perspective of the Agile Coach tasked with an Agile adoption and transformation effort at an organization.

What do you do when you encounter a change-averse and/or a seemingly unmotivated Agile team?

I’ve experienced this situation on several occasions where Agile is deemed the ‘flavor of the month’, or something that will likely go away if ignored long enough. Or enough roadblocks are put up. Or enough grenades are thrown over the wall, blaming Agile for what are often more truly fundamental or systemic problems.

First and foremost in these situations, I always try to be empathetic; to see things from their perspective. What is their motivation to change, take on and embrace a way of working so fundamentally different than what they’ve been doing for the past decade (or two or three)? What isn’t working for them?

This is a tough one… But I’ll attempt to provide some lessons learned on how I was able identify some of the roadblocks and get most folks (not all) on board.

First, we need to determine the root causes. And there may be several.

Is it a Resource Manager who feels like this new Agile stuff is leaving them high and dry? If so, we need to do a better job identifying their new role in the process. It will likely change. Agile is disruptive, afterall.

Is it an individual Scrum Master, Product Owner, or Developer who hasn’t received ample training? Or that it’s been a while between their training and actual usage? If so, identify that early and offer training sessions or ‘refreshers’.

Is it that folks have been left on an island following their Agile training? If so, get them some Agile coaching, pronto.

Is it that the top brass and mid-level management at the organization haven’t communicated the vision, direction, need and value of this move to Agile methodologies? If so, have them do so. Quicker is better. On site personal visits, discussions, town halls, etc. are better than emails, memos or letters.

Is it that folks just flat out don’t understand the value of this change in methodology? If so, make sure the ‘change agents’ in the organization can clearly articulate the value and communicate it to whoever needs to know.

Or is it that change is just plain hard? It’s the rare bird that truly embraces change right away. It’s easier to keep the course. Your brain doesn’t have to think as much. You can stay in your comfort zone. Change takes time. And it also requires a bit of humility.

By the way, there are still places for those who prefer not to make the adjustment to working on an Agile team; bug fix teams, waterfall efforts, support, etc.

Here’s the thing…If you want to remain competitive in today’s marketplace (I’m talking about both the organizational level and the individual level), you have to be willing to change. And that requires self-motivation.

We’re all motivated by different things and at varying degrees. One thing that motivates me is change. I like to try new things. I also like to have fun. I like to be trusted. I like to volunteer for things. I like to learn. I like to be good teammate. I like to make a difference. I like to be recognized. I like to win. And yes, I like to make $ doing it, because I need to have cool stuff too.

Agile appears to be sticking around for a while. Some are even calling it Management 3.0. The more you learn about these new Agile methodologies (Scrum, Lean, Kanban, XP, et al), the better off you’ll likely be. Job opportunities will be better. You’ll be able to manage expectations better. You won’t work as much overtime, if any, as Agile encourages sustainable pace. And you’re more apt to truly enjoy and have fun at your job. The list goes on, but I’m running out of space, and probably attention span for a blog article.

What motivates you to make a change?

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