Thursday, March 15, 2012

Change is Hard... Change is Easy

This week, I listened to a talk by Ryan Martens, the CTO of Rally, and Rachel Weston, a certified Scrum Trainer. They were pitching a new element of Rally services. But that’s really beside the point. The discussion that really piqued my interest was when they started talking about change. I’ve been touting that changing to agile processes from traditional waterfall is hard work. There is a paradigm shift that has to happen. Old habits have to be broken. And Ryan and Rachel agreed with me on this point – change is hard.

Then they disagreed with me – change is easy.

Huh. It appears that both statements are true. It just depends on the motivator that’s causing the change.

When the change is something that you aren’t expecting, there can be a period of adjustment (sudden change in job situation, forced move to a new city, change in normal routine). Life seems grayer, duller, more frustrating.

But when you really want the change (improved job situation, better house, ability to add on something that you’ve always wanted to do), the change is like a breath of fresh air. Everything seems lighter, brighter, and more enjoyable.

What’s the reason for the shifting perspective? When you can see the end goal, when you can understand what makes this change good, the transition becomes easy.

Agile processes can bring about empowerment to the team, quicker response to the customer, less overhead, great company responsiveness, more discussion and dialogue, and as a side effect, a more fun-filled work environment. Even though the transition can be tough, keeping these end results in mind can make the process seem less dreary.

My youngest son has been struggling in his freshman year at high school. There’s more homework, the school is bigger, the teachers don’t scaffold quite as much. But there was a subtle shift recently. We started talking about his dreams and plans for college and beyond. Engineering is a tough field, requiring a rigorous college program, which in turn requires good grades in high school. My son made the connection between the change he’s facing now, and his long-term goals and dreams. It’s still a bit of a struggle to remember all the homework, but that focus, that vision, is keeping him on track.

Yup, change is hard, and change is easy. What motivates you to make it easy?

Thursday, March 8, 2012


(This is part of my occasional series on what I learned in attending and teaching coaching seminars.)

In the world of IT, we don't tend to move much. I know I will use IM to chat with someone just a few feet away, rather than walking over, or fill both my water bottle and teacup in the kitchen at the same time, rather than walking back half an hour later.  But movement helps in so many different ways.
  • Exercise – Even though the “knowledge worker” doesn’t need to be physically active, exercise is important for overall health. One’s immune system improves, sleep comes more regularly (and naturally), and walking from the car to the office (even with a few flights of stairs thrown in) doesn’t seem so bad.
  • Change of view – Staring at a computer screen for hours on end can cause strain to our eyes, so moving around, staring out a window, or whiteboarding a process with team members can give our eyes a needed break.
  • Clear thinking – The model just isn’t quite jelling with the requirements. Something’s missing. Don’t keep staring at the UML diagram. Take a walk. Go get a cup of coffee, or just listen to the sounds of spring (they’re starting to arrive here in Denver). When you return to the model, the connection or relation may start to make sense.
  • Memory – Did you know that you associate new information with your physical location? Not just the where (bland conference room in Anytown, USA), but what you are doing (especially if it’s not a normal action), can help you learn. Our 17-year old son still remembers body movements associated with the seasons that we showed him when he was two.
  • Perception based on physical and social state – A warm cup of coffee helps to provide a warmer association with a person. A hill seems less steep when you’re viewing it with a friend, rather than alone.
Movement and your physical location can generate new ideas, help you over stumbling blocks, help you remember new concepts, and build relationships. There’s even evidence that, if you are sitting inside a box shape taped on the floor, you will be less creative than if you are sitting outside that same box tape outline.  What are you waiting for? Get outside the box, and get moving!