Thursday, March 22, 2007

Embracing Change: What Stays Constant?

My experience is that many people like to have something that doesn't change. Sure people understand that to stay in the game, we need to adapt as quickly to new situations as possible. Only if we are fast enough, the ability to adapt can be turned into a competitive advantage.

But then I observe the people I work with, I observe myself. And I discover that they as well as myself, we are still looking for something that stays a little bit more constant.

And when we take a closer look there are things that stay constant. We change the tools, we change the architecture, the designs of systems, and retire tools in favor of better tools. We change the techniques and processes. We create a flow of all these elements of software engineering. And yet, there are things that stay the same: It is the values and principles that we apply. The people I work with, and myself, we have chosen the agile values and principles as a guideline, as a foundation for how we work. They provide us with the foundation, with that sense of fixture.

Some of the more traditional projects and teams that I have seen in the past, they, too, have things that stay constant and things that change. They often have chosen the process to stay the same, for instance with all the artifacts that people create, but which sometimes don't provide as much value as they require effort to create and maintain them. And the thing that changes are the values. Sometimes they claim that they respect the human individual, their people's dignity. But then, during the execution of the projects, these are the things that go overboard first. With pressing deadlines people are overloaded, with a shortage of people, contractors are parachuted in, with problems popping up here and there, people are moved around (ever heard of a "Move Meeting"?). Should we as leaders really be surprised, if no hand shows up when we ask the question, whether people feel treated as being human individuals?

There is better ways, and one of the questions we should continuously ask and answer is which elements we want to keep constant, and which elements are the ones where we want our teams to be adaptable. If we decide to keep our values and principles constant, and want to change the way we work, the technology, the design, the tools, the processes, then we are usually in a much better position for success! And all people on our team and the stakeholders will have more fun, too!

P.S. I had a very good discussion today on this subject. Thank you Raymond, Mark, and Curt!

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