5 super easy ways to embrace agile change

Door Patrick Verheij

People seem to like blog posts with numbers in their title. My post about “5 super easy ways to avoid agile change” was read by thousands of people.\r\n\r\nOkay, so let’s try that again with an inverted message. Again also, straight from the trenches. 5 super easy ways to embrace agile change.\r\n\r\n1. Learn to understand the impact of your work\r\n\r\nThe people who are often the most sceptical about agile and everything that comes with it are the people who have difficulties helping other people understand the importance of their work. Please note that I do NOT say that they have difficulties EXPLAINING what they do and how important that is. That isn’t necessarily the case. It’s mostly about other people not being able to make much sense of the explanation.\r\n\r\nTraditional product development methods, including the well-spread John Farmers Whistle method, provide oodles of opportunities for people to hide inside the cloudiness of their work while at the same time that work can be extremely hard to relate to the thing we like to call “value”.\r\n\r\nAgile is very much about value and about understanding how that value comes to be. Understanding your own part in value creation is therefore vital to understand and eventually accept agile change.\r\n\r\nSo what is it that you do? For whom do you do what you do? Is your work valuable to the people you deliver it to? How do you know?\r\n\r\nThese are simple questions to ask and find answers to. Because if you couldn’t…why are you being paid then?\r\n\r\n2. Learn to understand the impact your organization makes\r\n\r\nUnderstanding value starts with yourself and your own work. You cannot possibly grasp the overall picture of an entire company overnight. But eventually you need to understand what the place you work for is trying to achieve to fully grasp why the heck those bastards (other people, not you) have chosen to become more agile and introduce those scary agile principles and practices.\r\n\r\nSo…what do you know about the organization you work for? Whether it be small or large, it has a reason to exist. It creates value to society in some way. Or…it doesn’t. Not anymore perhaps. Something changed and you were not aware until now. You were inside the cloud of your work, providing local value, while the place around you was crumbling to dust.\r\n\r\nOkay, I may be exaggerating. Nevertheless, there must be a good reason why agility is being imposed on you. That reason MUST be revealed to you in order to make all those agile intentions work. Organizatonal leadership know that. And if they don’t, well…now YOU know :-)\r\n\r\n3. Accept that it is not always about you\r\n\r\nIt may be difficult to believe, but no company nor other type of economic organization exists for the people who work there. Not just for them at least. Organizations exist for that part of society they create value for with their products and services, for their shareholders, and only then for the jobs they provide.\r\n\r\nNow it can be a good reason to keep a company alive for the sake of job security alone, but that would not be very healthy. Not for society nor for you. And it wouldn’t even be attainable at scale of course. Everyone can understand that, with the remarkable exception of French pilots.\r\n\r\nDespite the fact that YOU can be extremely important to the company and the company to you, in terms of providing resources for living (i.e. money), the company is not there for eternally maintaining the warm and easy to explain but hard to understand cloud of work around you.\r\n\r\nSo accept that it is not merely about keeping you happy. Agile practices often focus on people’s happiness, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you can keep doing what you always did. You may need to change too!\r\n\r\n4. See any change as an opportunity\r\n\r\nAnd so you may need to change. Change your work, your environment, and maybe even your attitude. How bloody great is that? Oh yes, you will lose something. You will lose most of the comfort and security you currently experience. But you know what? If you forcefully reject agile change AND have difficulties explaining the value of your work, wellfare is around the corner these days. Unless you work for a wimpy organization of course.\r\n\r\nJust look at all the changes that an agile mindset can bring you: transparency of everyone’s work, better understanding of the value you create, more relatedness to your colleagues, better and more satisfying productivity, meaningful work, more responsibilies, recognition for a quality mindset!\r\n\r\nAny change that seems inevitable is at least worth investigating. So do that. Find out what that darn agile thing is all about. Don’t believe everything you hear immediately. Start asking questions. Fair, insightful questions. Questions that help you understand what the heck is going on and what could be in it for you.\r\n\r\nWhen you embrace change as an opportunity, chances are that you will start shaping the future you desire around you instead of being kicked out of the building with a short, deceptive, and meaningless “thank you for 35 years of worthy contribution” speech.\r\n\r\n5. Act like the professional that you are\r\n\r\nYou are a profesional. Let’s just start with that. That means that you know how to do your job and why your job is important. Now carefully read the next line:\r\n\r\n“Your organization needs YOU to improve, regardless of anything called agile”.\r\n\r\nAny organization is nothing but a bunch of people organized in some way, merely supported by buildings, processes, procedures, money, machinery, and automation. As long as people work inside an organization their work isn’t automated yet and thus they are needed.\r\n\r\nThat means that either you do valuable work OR your work can be automated.\r\n\r\nIf you do valuable work, then continue doing that. Improve that work while you are at it. That’s a sign of true craftmanship. Teach those agile folks all about your work and help them achieve whatever they try to achieve in terms of time to market, better quality and the like. LEAD them.\r\n\r\nIf you do work that can be automated, then either contribute to automating that work or transform the work in something that people wouldn’t ever consider automating!\r\n\r\nAgile is a lot about automating stuff. More value, less waste. More meaningful work, less conveyer belts. Be a professional not just in whatever job you’re at, but in your attitude towards the work that needs to be done.\r\n\r\nParting thoughts\r\n\r\nI admit, these five ways might not be so super easy to grasp when you’re stuck in your cosy cloud of work. Nevertheless, they will help you stand strong in the middle of agile change. Changing organization value leaders over whiners. I believe everyone can be a leader or a whiner, but you cannot be both at the same time.\r\n\r\nTruth to be said, these days I do not come across many people that whine about agile anymore. I do see some leaders, but not nearly enough. It seems like most people just “accept” agile change at some point and then stick to whatever status quo emerges. I see people sticking to work, clenching to roles, adhering to self-imposed rules. They seems to forget about what the change was all about. Because they are not reminded and do not remind others either.\r\n\r\nSo in addition to the five ways mentioned above, always look back at why agile change was started in the first place. Do you still understand? Do the people around you still understand? Is it still valid? What should we do next? Is there anything we should learn to renew our understanding?\r\n\r\nDo we still care?

Patrick Verheij

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