Getting Started

WRITTEN BY Dennis Stevens

Synaptus and LeadingAgile came together in January. It is pretty compelling. Mike and I are both in Atlanta. We enjoy hanging out together. We have been collaborating on content, supporting the Atlanta Agile community, and sharing clients for a few years. We have started to build toward our vision in a way that would be challenging individually. The future for LeadingAgile is really exciting.

One of the outcomes from coming together was that I would start contributing to the LeadingAgile blog. I know how write blog posts. I have over 200 blog posts from my last two blogs – around a blog post a week for almost 4 years. Mike is a great model of successfully building a strong community by writing here. I have the access to post anytime I want. And I believe that it is important for me to start posting here to accomplish our vision for LeadingAgile.

Yet, here is it the end of June and I am just putting up my first post. It is interesting that I haven’t gotten started before now. What’s going on here?

Change Management

Last week I was in the office with Brian, the CTO at a client. We have had some challenges with a few of the Product Teams changing their behaviors to really be Agile. We were discussing strategies for getting the change we were looking for to take root.

We have told a compelling story and everyone is “bought-in” to the change. We have done training and provided one-to-one coaching so they believe they have the competence. The teams that have switched to Agile are having success and have been recognized as role models. The organization structures, goals, and incentives are aligned with the outcomes. Yet we still have a couple teams procrastinating in the desired changes. What’s going on here?

Resistance Management

The CTO and I recognize we are into the tough part of change management – resistance to change. After pursuing basic change management, resistance to change is personal. It involves individual’s WIIFM – “What’s in it for me?” It comes up when the person doesn’t feel dissatisfaction with the current state, doesn’t have a desire for the future outcome, and doesn’t sense safety in making the change.

Resistance to change is irrational. The compelling story, competency, role models and organization structures are external. But feeling, desire, and safety are internal to the individual. At the root of irrational resistance is an innate desire to be successful. Our brains remember that there was a time when being certain about the future meant staying alive. When the future is uncertain resistance is expressed as fear, embarrassment, and loss.

Just Get Started

Brian related getting past this resistance to change to his experience fixing the railing on his deck. He had talked to a guy at the local home improvement store and had been shown what to do. He was sure he had the right tools and materials. But he felt uncomfortable getting started. So he focused on a small task – creating one joint for the railing. Through this task he would learn if he could do the work, needed to ask a few more questions, or needed to hire someone. Once he got started he realized that while he didn’t have a perfect understanding from the local home improvement store – he was able to figure it out by trying some things. In the end it was a lot less painful than he had imagined.

As I was sitting in the office with Brian I had a “the cobbler’s kid has no shoes” moment. I needed to do some personal resistance management. We have addressed all the rational issues (compelling story, competence, role model, and incentives). My procrastination is irrational resistance.

Brian’s story demonstrates a proven pattern for addressing this resistance. Become aware of the resistance. Pick a specific behavior to work on. Make sure you have the right tools and skills to get started. Use getting started is the beginning of the process. Then get started and learn from the result.

The key is to get started. So I did. As I get ready to post this I realize it was a less painful then I imagined it would be.

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4 comments on “Getting Started”

  1. Siraj Sirajuddin

    Love this blog Dennis and reminds me of my own story:

    I have been reading the Leading Agile blog for sometime now… but have not commented. I know you guys well and love your work. But still have not commented and added to our virtual connection.

    What’s going on here?

    The key was to get started. So I did. Yes, it was less painful than I also imagined it would be.

    Phew! I lived thru this.

    Thanks so much my dear,
    Siraj

    Reply
  2. Mike Cottmeyer

    Totally psyched to have Dennis on board and writing… lot’s of exciting stuff in our future… some of which will be announced soon. Welcome Dennis!

    Reply
  3. Matthias Marschall

    Thank you, Dennis, for sharing this story. Getting started really is the key to change. The longer you sit and procrastinate, the bigger (and more frightening) the task at hand looks like. Like in your story, it often helps to pick an almost too trivial task just to get started. Write that one automated test to show that typo. Once you’re in motion, inertia works _for_ you!

    Reply
  4. Brian Sondergaard

    FUD – Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. We often forget how easy it is to “freeze” the audience. Help them get started. Individually.

    Reply