Traversing through Change

Two years ago, I attended Agile West, and my perspective on software development changed entirely. I was bombarded by so much material that is so blatantly obvious to me now. However, at the time it was revolutionary for me. As a tribute to my epiphany, I’d like to talk about the Satir Change Model. This model and a value driven illustration which I’ll discuss another time really sold me on the need for change. The graphic below is used by coaches and trainers to illustrate the treacherous journey; the change can be as simple as introducing Test Driven Development or completely scrapping sequential development. This isn’t earth shattering material, but I want to invite readers to read and reflect where they are on this journey. Allow your minds to picture where you are, where you were, and where you wish you could go. What did it feel like as you were looking over the edge? If things didn’t quite work out, why? What would you recommend to those about to embark on their own journeys?

Virginia-Satir-change_process-by-Michael-Erickson

It takes courage by an organization to implement change, and it takes an immense amount of intestinal fortitude to hold true to that commitment; nothing will test the will of leadership when the inevitable chaos ensues. Despite the many voices in the community yelling that ‘going agile’ is not a silver bullet, companies run straight off the cliff expecting immediate results. These companies are so desperate, they are willing to take the leap of faith without measuring the depth of the chasm. Can we really blame them? In some cases their situation was so poor, it appeared like their only option at the time. Going ‘over the edge’ isn’t something to be taken lightly, and it may not even be the best decision for your team or company. There is no fault in choosing not to make a change.

Then you have the organizations that invested the time upfront to prepare for the descent. They go as far as establishing a community to help scale the change. The community, rather than the individuals, improve the likelihood of the change ‘sticking’. They’ll collect some bumps and bruises on the way down, but they stay the course and arrive at the bottom of the chasm. The scars serve as reminders of why they chose to make the journey.

It takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice to complete the descent, but just because you reach level ground doesn’t mean it’s time to relax. In my opinion this is when the organization is most vulnerable- between the chaos and transforming idea. Organizations are not prepared for this ‘lost’ feeling and immediately start looking for more solutions. Some will turn right back around and ascend the cliff they just painstakingly descended- the rubber band effect. Others will try to redefine their goal and create an entirely new chasm of change; a short term solution with a much higher climb at the end. In successful cases, they manage to trudge onward.

The ascent is truly not for the faint of heart. Here, teams and organizations have experienced their ‘transforming moment’. This is like the first spark when trying to light a fire; you keep attempting to repeat whatever caused it to happen. Sometimes you’re successful, sometimes you’re not. In this phase, the teams and individuals can start to see and feel the change. Beware of bad habits and false ledges; they’ve sent many tumbling on more than one occasion.

Finally, you reach the other side. You’ve completed your journey… you’re agile. Wrong! At this point, you’ve broken even. Remember way back at the beginning when we all agreed, ‘In order for us to produce what we’re producing now, we have to take a dip.’ You’re back on level ground. However, your organization is now equipped with the experiences of this monumental change. You’ve likely had your share of successes and failures; each one serving as a lesson learned to strengthen your resolve. From this point on it’s about consistency and striving to improve- both are easier said than done.

I purposefully made this post brief and very broad. There are many strategies to clear the chasm.With these attempt come many stories of success and failure. We can gain much insight from analyzing the journeys of others. Where are you in your journey? Are you looking over the cliff deciding if this is right for you and your organization? Are you carefully making your way down… slipping every now and then? Are you lost at the bottom of the chasm? Or are you making that final climb?