Welcome to our first installment of Coaching Office Hours with Davisbase! Each month we will select one Agile transformation topic to briefly explore with a Davisbase Coach. We encourage you to submit your questions and the topics you are interested in via twitter @davisbase with hashtag #askDavisbase or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For our first session with the coach, we are speaking with Jeffrey Davidson, Agile Coach and Trainer for Davisbase. Jeffrey is a recognized expert and sought after speaker in agile methodologies. An engaging presenter, he is often found at conferences and professional associations across North America and Europe. Jeffrey’s ability to blend strategic thinking, powerful questions, and technical experience makes him a desired coach when companies want to turn theoretical knowledge into real-world application.
Our topic today is all about change, a fitting topic to begin our series on Agile transformation, and specifically what you should know about managing and supporting change in your organization as you begin pursuing agility.
DBC: Jeffrey, to get us started, would you briefly explain the Satir Change Model?
Jeffrey: Satyrs? Do you mean the mythological Greek figure? Why do we want to talk about ancient ideas?
Okay, just kidding.
The Satir Change Model talks about the very common path people and teams take when trying something new. It is a model 1 describing how people react to changes in 4 steps. The first is the status quo, where things are stable. The second stage begins when a foreign element is introduced, adding chaos to what was once stable. This change will result in a performance dip while simultaneously stress levels are rising. The third stage is where you begin to integrate and practice with the transformation ideas 2. As you learn what works and become more skillful performance often rises higher than the starting point. The fourth stage is where performance levels off as skills are mastered and a new status quo is set.
DBC: How might one generally understand and apply this model when starting down the path of becoming Agile?
Jeffrey: Like the Borg, “Resistance is futile.” And by that I mean don’t resist the chaos or the rest of these stages. They exist. It will take time to be good at this new thing.
Transitioning to Agile means learning new skills, including new ways to interact with your team, breakdown work, track progress, hold yourself and others accountable, increased transparency, and more. There is a lot that is different. You should expect that you will have to practice these new skills to become proficient in them. And in many Agile transformations you have to learn and practice all of them at the same time. Whew!
Don’t focus on perfection. Instead, focus on on delivering value. Focus on learning how to work better with your team and product owner. Focus on improving. If you keep your eyes on the 12th Agile principle, everything will be alright.
At regular intervals, the team reflects on how
to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts
its behavior accordingly.
DBC: And have you seen any pitfalls in your experience with helping teams and organizations progress through the J-curve? What should people look out for?
Jeffrey: Unfortunately, yes. The Satir model is really the best case model. There are plenty of individuals and teams who succumb to the chaos or give up before they reach competence in the new skills. Whether fighting through complacency or denial, disillusionment or hostility, reaching the new status quo takes discipline and effort and a supportive environment.
First, be honest about the reason for change and don’t over promise the benefits.
Second, don’t presume those who lack enthusiasm are against change or Agile. They may have valid questions or concerns that are waiting to be addressed.
Third, explain why the new processes help. Many teams are derailed because of an “Agile expert” telling everyone how to act and neither modeling the correct behavior, nor helping a team understand why it’s a benefit.
Fourth, try to find support high enough in the organization that the people doing the work can be assured this isn’t the latest management fad of the month.
This recent image from twitter is a great example of what goes on and what to look out for:
DBC: Teams in large enterprises are often geographically dispersed, or as a ScrumMaster at a DBC client once said, “dislocated” (as opposed to co-located). Does this lack of co-location affect in any way the J-curve process and change adoption? If so, how?
Jeffrey: I think distance, whether you call it co-location or dislocation (great phrase, btw!), has a huge impact on communication. It’s just harder to have a good conversation by email, phone, or often video, too. If teams are located across the globe and don’t work the same hours, it’s atrocious. And when you add in the possibilities of different cultural norms, it’s almost too much to bear.
I start with this because teams need to work together through the change curve. If they are working at cross-purposes, or simply aren’t working on the same items, they will spend more time in the resistance phase and it take longer to make progress during the integration phrase.
What’s the secret to progressing through these stages? Include fast-feedback loops, sharing ideas and reactions, setbacks and progress to find the best way forward. Expecting teams to make fast progress when they struggle with communication roadblocks is silly, at best.
DBC: Last question: What didn’t I ask you about change management as it relates to Agile transformations that I should have?
Jeffrey: Ooo, good question! Let’s start off with a Chinese proverb.
Rather seven dragons I know
than one I don’t.
Change is hard. Very few people like change for the fun of it. When you are trying to introduce change and others are resisting, it can feel like people are deliberately sabotaging your efforts. Rather than pull out your hair or plan retaliation, stop and think about why folks don’t want to change.
Everyone you meet has achieved some success in their life. They have been hired for their skills and potential, promoted for their contributions, and experienced the joy of solving problems that stumped others. No matter who you talk to or work with, everyone has achieved this level of success. And you want them to change!
And changing, despite all of it’s promised benefits, also brings risks. It is possible your changes will mean it is harder for people to experience the same success they are used to. At the least, they will have to learn new ways to succeed. Maybe it will be easier, but maybe it wont!
When you add all these things together it’s simple to see why people resist change. If you cannot explain how change is either beneficial to the individual, the organization, or both, then you should expect serious resistance. Don’t forget the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me)!
If I had space for a second point I might warn about the Dunning-Kruger effect, but I’ll save that for another post.
- George E. P. Box stated, “Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful.” By this I want you to think this model is an approximation for what you or your team may go through. It may not be exact and that’s okay.
- Agile is seen as both the foreign element causing chaos and the transformational idea we want people to practice. This is not correct, but it is viewed this way. The way to combat this is to explain how the status quo is not meeting the current organization needs and why the development process is considered to be in a state of chaos already!
- If you are looking for another good model, try John Fisher’s Process of Personal Change.
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Alright, that’s it for this month! Thanks to Jeffrey for his time and keen insights! You can continue the conversation on change management with Jeffrey on twitter @JeffreyGoodReq and Davisbase @davisbase. Check back soon for the next installment!
As always, we hope you find this series relevant, informative and helpful as you begin or continue your journey to becoming Agile. Help us make it even more relevant by contacting us with your questions or suggested topics on Agile transformations via twitter @davisbase with hashtag #askDavisbase, or via email at email@example.com.