Empathy with those adopting change
We have to recognise that change is not a positive word – it implies disruption from our comfort zone, more work and more stress:
- Let’s start each change initiative trying to appreciate how unsettling the change is going to be.
- Lets imagine all of the possible resistance that people might have and why.
- Lets use this understanding to find the most relevant way to reassure them.
It is hard to find the end goal
To demonstrate this approach, in my presentation on creating an Agile transformation I explained how hard it is to really think and work in an Agile way.
For example, Agile requires us to start with the end in mind and be very clear about the business need that we are addressing. This is so much easier to say than to do. It is human to jump straight to the solution and start doing things to make the change happen.
It is much harder to step back and consider the end goal, thinking through in detail how that will look, feel and work in practice. To prove my point, imagine you are packing to go on holiday. How many of us start the task by imagining ourselves travelling to our destination, arriving and then sitting on the beach, touring museums, going out for dinner.
Do we ask ourselves what our success criteria is for a successful holiday wardrobe, and then break this down into a series of deliverables? I think we know the answer – we throw a load of clothes and shoes in the case and tell ourselves we will make it work when we get there!
Constant decision taking wears you down
Another issue in the Agile mindset is getting used to an unrelenting stream of decisions. We don’t have detailed plans that cover the work end to end. We do some work and then decide what to do next based on the feedback we get.
This means we constantly have to decide what is the next Must have should be working on. Of course that means confronting your inner voice which queries your decisions – are you sure that next piece of work is a Must Have? What about this Could Have over here, isn’t that more important than you think?
Mentally this is challenging as we learn to trust our judgement and accept that sometimes we get it wrong, so need the courage to step back and change direction. For this reason I think Agile makes us very “present” and maintaining this “conscious competence” is a lot more draining than working through a detailed plan, almost on auto-pilot.
No room for perfectionists!
It is really hard to get used to delivering “half finished work”. What I mean is that in order to deliver on time, sometimes the things we hand over to our customers contain the Must Have and the Should Have elements but not all the Could Haves.
It is often these “coulds” that contain all the extras that can really delight a customer and make us proud of our work. Learning to deliver a workable product even without the extras is mentally draining because our inner voice points out all the things we haven’t done, rather than celebrating what we have achieved.
We need to develop the habit of valuing each component of what we create, appreciating how it contributes to an improvement, whilst reassuring ourselves that we always add more to it later to make it even better.
Benefits of Agile working
Now I know this article has pointed out the challenges of an Agile transformation but I passionately believe that moving to this style of working has made me more productive and efficient.
I am confident that on any given day I am working on the most important and valuable pieces of work. I actively question my customers when I deliver, to seek out more ideas and find out what to do more of and what to stop doing.
Not having to have all the answers up front keeps me more interested in what’s coming next and keeps me more connected to my environment. I watch for shifts in interests and demands within my market place to shape my prioritisation decisions.
These are my benefits but by being open about my challenges I create an environment of honesty and authenticity which makes it easier for my colleagues and clients to share their concerns.
After all, moving to Agile is a cultural transformation and how those impacted feel about Agile will be core to your success.