Managing Followers of the Old Way

by Krishna on July 3, 2009

Mike Cottmeyer has a good article on transitioning to Agile:

It’s important when we introduce something new that we spend some time figuring out what the people around us need to be successful. These folks have families… they have kids in college… they have financial obligations. You are not just asking them to change… you are asking them to put their livelihood at risk. People don’t resist change because they are bad people or because they just don’t get it. Chances are… at some level… they are afraid.
More than likely… there is some fundamental concern that you have not addressed. Until you understand what your detractors need to be successful… and work to satisfy that need… on their terms… they are going to continue to stand in your way. They will continue to hold you back and resist the changes you are trying to implement. If you had so much to lose… you’d probably do the same thing.
Trust me doesn’t cut it until you have earned that trust. Agile will help you get there… but you know what… you might have to let them have their Gantt chart… you might have to let them have their MRD… until you can make it safe for them to let it go.

It’s important when we introduce something new that we spend some time figuring out what the people around us need to be successful. These folks have families… they have kids in college… they have financial obligations. You are not just asking them to change… you are asking them to put their livelihood at risk. People don’t resist change because they are bad people or because they just don’t get it. Chances are… at some level… they are afraid.

More than likely… there is some fundamental concern that you have not addressed. Until you understand what your detractors need to be successful… and work to satisfy that need… on their terms… they are going to continue to stand in your way. They will continue to hold you back and resist the changes you are trying to implement. If you had so much to lose… you’d probably do the same thing.

Trust me doesn’t cut it until you have earned that trust. Agile will help you get there… but you know what… you might have to let them have their Gantt chart… you might have to let them have their MRD… until you can make it safe for them to let it go.

This is applicable not only to Agile, but also any new processes that you introduce into your team or organization. I wanted to add one important point: The people who are standing in your way just feel uncomfortable, but they do not know why they are uncomfortable for the most part. Maybe there are people who actually think, “I have to oppose this because I will lose my job”, but generally speaking, they just know that what you propose is not going to work, even if they like you and trust you.

And such thinking is perfectly rational. If it wasn’t, you would have managers who go the other disastrous way of adopting every new business fad that catches their attention. There would be no stability because there would only be moving targets. Even a good methodology like Agile would fail because they will keep tinkering with new ideas instead of sticking to a gameplan and seeing it through.

So, think of “some” opposition as a good thing. It means that when you break down the opposition, the change is likely to be more permanent because you have convinced people of its benefits and addressed their concerns. You would also have learnt how you must adapt the change to the needs of your team or company.

Gradual change is the change that lasts. So be patient.

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