I was going to write about UX and Agile - something I haven't written about in a while. However, I went to the Agile Leader's Network meetup in Dallas a few nights ago, and a conversation about Agile culture inspired me to take a different turn.
We were talking about cultural changes in Agile organizations - and the conversation covered the usual suspects:
- How to reverse misconceptions about Agile
- Why it's hard to be transparent and honest
- How change can work (bottom-up vs. top-down)
- Virtual teams
It was a great conversation! Especially talking about why people choose to change or not to change.
Often people have a hard time making changes that benefit them - even moving to Agile when it will clearly help an organization be more competitive and make more money. It's always intrigues me as to why people won't change when it benefits them to do so. I wonder, what about staying the same serves them?
I have been exploring this in my own personal journey. There are times I will experience something that doesn't serve me anymore that I need to change. And when I ask myself that question, "why does it benefit me not to change?" I usually spark an immediate transformation within myself. Staying in situations that don't serve me usually are based on validating limiting beliefs - like staying in relationships because I don't feel I deserve better, or thinking that some situations are ok because there isn't a way to change it. I had a hard time going freelance because I had a belief that I couldn't make a living doing it. That was definitely false!
Change is scary - especially making the leap to Agile! I didn't bring it up in the meeting, but being honest and transparent with colleagues is DAMN SCARY! You need to admit you don't know something, you can't do something, or you missed a deadline. You have to share information - and in some organizations, knowledge is power, and withholding information from a team can give someone an edge. In addition to being open and honest, Agile cultures require that the team isn't judgmental. That's hard to do.
One of the guys there raised a great point about Agile change and how in some ways, we forget to respect the accomplishments of those who got a company where they are at now without Agile. And some of them feel that the change to Agile, depending on how it is presented, diminishes their accomplishments and contributions - the old way is "bad" and the new, Agile way is "good."
Such a great point! (I should have grabbed his card - my bad! Loved this perspective!)
Agile is a different way of seeing the world. Like waterfall - it's not good, it's not bad, it just is. Agile works well today because of the number of changes we are experiencing, and not just in technology, but in authenticity, collaboration, leaving hierarchical models.
That's where Agile comes in! And it's not just about speed - it's about truth, honesty, transparency, trust, collaboration. Companies succeed when they are collaborative.
It's hard to accept that past ways won't work because the world is different.
The easiest transformations come from the top-down, but the most effective transformations come from the bottom-up. Agile didn't start from an executive order - it grew out of development cultures. In many companies, Agile transformations start in the development group and make their way to the business. The business needs to then think about their work in a different way. As does design.
We need to talk to people openly about the past and the future to bring them with us in Agile transformations. Some ideas how to do this:
- Openly discuss how business is changing and how can we better respond to that change
- Discuss how not changing allows us to maintain limiting beliefs about business (it provides us excuses, e.g., we can't enter new markets, we can't respond to competitors that quickly, we are too big to possibly be nimble)
- Demonstrate the benefit of transparency through your own actions - hold nothing back and be open and honest. Encourage others to do the same. People will see the benefit of this behavior through experience.
- Stop the blame game starting with yourself. There is accountability and blame - they are not the same. Blame brings a "you did this" attitude with it. Accountability is being responsible for contribution. We need to shift to encourage contributions and reduce work fear that comes with blame.
- Experiment with Agile in a group to demonstrate how it can work. Sometimes, people need to see and experience the benefits.
This discussion inspired me to reflect on why UX teams have such a hard time shifting how they work to an Agile paradigm. Designers had a lot of success in isolated communities, working towards a world of perfect design and interactions. Today we create software in a world focused on "good enough for today," based on enhancements and updates, iterative testing and updates. It's a shift in thinking about work, roles, and contributions.
The old ways served us in UX well and today, those approaches just aren't working. And it can be hard to let go.
I'll be posting more about this soon.
I'm curious how we can be more inclusive of development veterans who achieved incredible results without Agile, and how we can include them in transformations to new ways of approaching software development.
Look forward to reading your suggestions!