Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Resistance to Agile

The right agile message: "let's start where you are and we'll equip YOU (team) to figure out how to get even better.”

Resistance to change is the phenomenon when more and more organizations adopt agile as a business philosophy and project management, what’s the root cause and how to overcome such mentality?

Learning agility: Company has started an agile transformation. One of the most critical points organizations ignore in their transformation journey is the ability to quickly learn from failure or the ability to have an honest retrospective and take action. Agile exposes bottlenecks almost every day - managers (teams) are not trained well to deal with these situations which call for core leadership skills. This makes the teams feel very un-secure and gives a cosmetic feel to the whole transformation initiative.

Five-Step U-shape curve: Use the U-shape curve to explain to the organizations the stages that they will go through in the process of adapting to change: Curiosity, Frustration, Contempt, Illumination and Expertise. Imagine five steps in a U where Curiosity and Expertise are at the top of the U opposite and in the same sequence, then Frustration and Illumination middle of U again on opposite sides and Contempt all the way to the bottom of the U. Once they know the game, they are more willing to accept it, since it becomes an intellectual exercise, rather than a power-play or touchy-feely thing. 

Middle management resistance: The businesses are cautious in adopting Agile. But main resistance is from present staff. This is just in part to the fact they are required to change habits. In many cases, top level executives want it, development teams clamors for it, but middle management resists it to the very end. The really good upper management understands the results they are getting, and why the need to change in product delivery approach. Those in the trenches finally have the feeling of being treated as smart as they are. Middle management is usually those left without a role during this transition. Now that teams are self-managing, what do they do? Now that clients are more involved with product development, what's there to bridge? The goal now is to look for places where these people can still leverage on their talents, skills, and experience. Could they be good coaches/scrum masters? Could they be more involved in product visioning? Could they go back to doing technical stuff? Or plug in the holes in the organization?

Deliver the right agile message: "Let's start where you are and we'll equip YOU (team) to figure out how to get even better.”. It's important to acknowledge that as humans we all resist change. It's natural. The decision makers would not be personally involved in the change towards Agile, they are expecting results, and resistance, if not reacted upon properly, can be risk. Focus on the changes that will happen in terms of roles and what is the alternative. Resistance usually stem from uncertainty and threat to careers, or focus on the faulty assumptions, the antiquated scientific management theory, inappropriate analogy of software development and manufacturing, etc. and then propose what they can "experiment" on that may improve things, moving agile among them.

Resistance to change is normal, the point is how to apply the right mindset, process and method to overcome obstacles, there must be committed and continual engagement from the customer/ client/business. They must be part of the WE. To deliver products/services exactly what customers need, with outstanding quality, usability and experience.


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