#onAgile2016 @estherderby ‘s keynote – my note and thoughts

My comments:

I found this talk super-useful on two levels. One, the idea of Change “Management” is a topic that re-emerges again and again in my conversations at conferences, at work with clients, and in encountering entrenched command-and-control cultures. The second is the main challenge I personally have as a sometime Change Agitator of sorts is in just that. I’m being an “agitator.” This means I can be in “coercion” mode and not just showing people useful ways to work. The user-centered approach Esther takes helps me pay closer attention to what is valuable about the past and what was actually working.

My main question would be about muscle memory. Because sometimes we think that some process or pattern is working “if only” people did it right. “If only they got the brief/requirements/assignment completely right before we started, this wouldn’t have happened.” “If only the client knew what they wanted.” I think this idea of “what we think is working” needs to be very thoroughly interrogated. I might not believe, no matter what data you put in front of me, that “it” isn’t “working.” I might believe that “if only people changed their behavior” that “it” would “work.”

The root of much suffering is that we often are coming from a stance of what we think is good for the greater good, or at least for ourselves. We believe this so powerfully that it is very hard to break out of it and “see” what we’ve done wrong.

I think Esther’s answer to this is in the framing of changes we want to make in terms of time. She described an exercise that creates a timeline by having participants look at what was going on and what trends we see for the future. A friend of mine, Rob Purdie from IBM, used this technique on our local meetup, the NYC Scrum User Group on our yearly retrospective. I had thought to do something simpler (I Like/I Wish/What If…) but am reconsidering.

Great talk, really enjoyed it.

My unedited notes:

Create great environments so people can do their best work.

Talk about Change.

How companies traditionally approach change.

Create great environments so people can do their best work.

Talk about Change.

How companies traditionally approach change.

Usual pattern:

  • Drop change on people’s heads.
  • Then “driving” change
    • Like cattle (turning people into mindless animals)
    • Or a car (as if it is a smooth road)
  • Installing change
    • As if changing a part on a piece of equipment
  • Evangelizing change
    • You get surface compliance

These actually get in the way of change. We need to create the conditions where change is most likely to emerge in a way that involves people and brings their creativity to the change.

People resist change because they feel pushed. If you stop pushing, they stop resisting.

Six Rules for Change

  1. Work form a stance of Congruence, balancing the interest of the self.

* empathizing with people that you hope to make a change for.

* need to consider your own internal state about the change

* how do you feel about the people involved in the change.

  1. Honor what is valuable about the past and what is working now

* don’t force people to admit they’ve been wrong.

* it was people’s best thinking at a certain point in time

Exercise she does poster, what was in the past, what was going on, what trends do we see for the future.

We are in a process of time.

Organizations try to freeze processes.

  1. Assess the Current Situation and the system.

Sees big training efforts, bring in coaches, but then a year later things are the same at the end.

Reason is that underlying systems don’t change.

Underlying patterns: system of approving projects, split between communications and dev people, etc.

Have to look at the environment and see what is holding the pattern in place.

People might talk about more collaboration, but they review them individually. Their raise is dependent on how they perform as an individual.

What do people currently know and what knowledge would help them move into the new situation. You have to look at what knowledge they need.

If you don’t understand WIP and how that affects the organizations to function properly.

Who benefits from status quo? Because no matter what? Someone’s happy with it.

People in traditional PM roles really felt left out of agile.

What will they lose and how can I help them through that loss.

Michelle Schwager (?) book.

  1. Activate Networks to diffuse new ideas through the system. Weave in people who are trusted and who will spread them.

* Don’t rely on formal hierarchy. Bias on positional authority can exist. When you do that, people may comply, but they don’t buy in. If you can activate a network, you’ll be far more effective in diffusing an idea without resistance.

** People don’t resist change, they resist coercion.

*** Smokers are actually useful networkers.

Communities of Practice. Issue with these is they are neither communities nor do they practice. Usually just speakers come, no sense of shared concern.

Don’t expect you’ll get the change perfect first time you try. As you try, you’ll be learning. People will come to accept and it will fit better.

  1. Design Experiments to facilitate learning and buy-in.

* Experiments don’t feel big and big changes scare people. People will learn and will get buy-in.

* Measure, Evaluate, Adjust.

(During question/answer I had computer outage).

Project Managers Bridge to Agility:

https://www.amazon.com/Software-Project-Managers-Bridge-Agility/dp/0321502752

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