Monthly Archives: September 2013

The Challenge of Change

Is your organization becoming Agile?  Is your organization merging or outsourcing?  Are you wondering how, where or even if you will fit?  Are you feeling a loss of control over your work life?  If there is only one guarantee in the world of information technology, or in any work environment, it is change.  Let’s face it; life itself is a series of changes.

So how do we deal with change?  We can take the “ostrich approach”, burying our heads in the sand, pretending that it isn’t happening, or we can face it and embrace it.  We all know and accept that change is hard.  But have we ever thought about why change is so hard?  A colleague of mine expressed it very well yesterday when he said it’s the fear of the unknown.  What you don’t know, you can’t control. 

So the question becomes how do we deal with uncertainty?  We can start by examining our mindset or our attitudes and habits toward to succeeding when there is uncertainty.  In her book “Mindset The New Psychology of Success”, Carol Dweck, PhD. defines two mindsets, fixed and growth.  Those who have a fixed mindset feel that their success or lack thereof, is a result of basic personality traits that cannot be changed.  Those who have a growth mindset believe that success is the result of hard work and see failure as an opportunity to learn.    The good news here is that mindsets can be changed.  Therefore we can start to deal with change and uncertainty by evaluating our mindset and changing our approach toward it.

We can begin by taking control of what we can control.   For example, if your organization becomes Agile, why not learn everything you possibly can about Agile development.  In the process you have a great chance of discovering where and how you will fit.  If your organization is downsizing, merging or outsoucing, yes, you may get laid off and yes, you have absolutely no control over whether or not that happens.  However, you can update your resume, start networking in your field, test the waters by applying and interviewing for positions in your field.  And in doing those things, you will feel a sense of control.  I know; I did it.

In Spencer Johnson, M.D., 1990’s book “Who Moved My Cheese?,” it was Haw who adopted the growth mindset. He followed the example of the mice, Sniff and Scurry, who saw change coming and took early action. He put on his running shoes and headed into the maze to find new sources of cheese.  Hem remained in the fixed mindset.

We can alleviate the fear of the unknown.  First we must willingly embrace the growth mindset, approach change as an opportunity to learn.  Second, we must be willing take the actions necessary to control what we can control within the change.  As “Humorista” Christine Cashen puts in “The Good Stuff Quipes and Tips on Life, Love, Work and Happiness,” we need to “BOOGIE” or Be Outstanding Or Get Involved Elsewhere.”

When you find yourself standing at the edge of a cliff looking into the water below, you may not have the choice to jump or not, but you sure can be ready, willing and able to swim!

AGILE…Methodology or Mindset?

Agile is a mindset; it is an established set of attitudes and habits about how to succeed at getting work done.  Wow, what a concept!  At a recent Agile New England meeting, Ahmed Sidky, PH.D applied the mindset research of Carol Dweck PH.D to agile transformations.   He defines the “Agile Mindset” as a growth mindset; an approach to managing uncertainty by learning as much as possible in the most efficient way possible.

As organizations adopt agile, they may begin by doing agile, following the practices as in Shu.  They may move on to Ha and break the rules, beginning to adapt agile methodologies and practices to their own needs.  However, Dr. Sidky argues that true agile exists in Ri.  An organization only becomes agile when it collectively internalizes the mindset, the four agile values and twelve guiding principles and then chooses the right the practices and methodologies that meet the needs of the individual situations. 

I think the “agile mindset” has lots of practical applications in many areas of software development.  Whether or not an organization is attempting an “agile transformation”, encouraging an agile mindset can only improve the software development process, no matter what methodology and tool set is used.  For example, if we encourage developers to ask for feedback early from testers and business analysts, we begin to build a culture of collaboration.  When we encourage testers to perform exploratory testing and to submit what they see as bugs even though these observations are not strictly deviations from specifications, we are encouraging continuous learning. 

When an organization builds an “agile mindset”, it has developed a foundation for commitment not only for an agile transformation but also for other types of organizational change, whether these changes involve reorganizations, geographically distributed teams or even mergers and acquisitions. 

Just as agile development practices have dramatically improved the speed and quality of software development, I think the “agile mindset” has the potential make the same dramatic impact on organizational change management.