Change is Hard- and Agile Ain’t Easy, Either

Thinking back upon the teams that I have been a part of, the really successful ones- we always went through what is called “Schneider’s Classic Change Curve”. You know the one, kind of like ‘Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing’…

It starts ‘on the up’, with High Expectations. You know- “oh cool, we’re going to try something…”

Then, expectations aren’t met. Ultimately, there is realization that some effort will be required to pull out of this downward dive.  Next, you hit the period of despair- at this point, folks are either building a rescue vessel, or are lining up their deck chairs.  And, if you are fortunate enough to be a part of the rescue vessel group, you get to see the light at the end of the tunnel (and yes, you are on the path to change for the better!) Congrats.

But how do we get here, and why? And why can’t we just take the easy path to get there?

The best way to relate to, and answer this, is the butterfly. Consider this: a butterfly starts as a little egg. He breaks out of his (or her to be fair!) egg as a little caterpillar. The caterpillar grows and grows, and ultimately starts to build the cocoon (or chrysalis, depending on the type) around itself, and starts the process of morphing into a butterfly. The cocoon bakes for a bit, until the butterfly is ready to emerge. Slowly, painfully, the butterfly works and works to make a little hole in the cocoon. Ultimately, through straining and pulling, the miracle occurs. All of this has to occur for the entire process to be successful.

Let’s then consider- if you are walking down a garden path and you see said cocoon. And you see that it is close to opening, and you decide to pull your pocketknife out and make a few nicks to weaken the cocoon, you know, just help the little guy out. What happens? It dies. Surely. The process is the process, in order for it to build the strength to survive. It just is. Like change. The process just is- for better or for worse. No shortcuts.

Bringing this back to Agile. So, the next time you realize that you are ‘working your way out of a cocoon’, acknowledge that moment. Understand what got you into that position. Take the moment in. And, be thankful that you are just a few days or weeks from a Retrospective, rather than another 4, 5, or 16 months from a ‘Project Post-Mortem’ (really? How macabre!) session. And of course, you don’t necessarily have to wait until the Retrospective to start talking about it…surely you are just a matter of a few hours from a standup where you can broach the subject, right?

Hopefully this wasn’t too abstract or touchy-feely for you all. I’ve just had a few bits of inspiration along this (garden) path this past week, with questions around teams making changes, and when they are going to ‘get there’.

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