In my profession I constantly deal with change. Sometimes it’s introducing new ways to think. Other times it’s changing the way you approach a problem. And most of the times it’s me trying to make other people change their behavior. Possibly because I like to make a difference.

I really enjoy helping others expand their horizons and introducing new perspectives. Maybe in the same sense an optician enjoys his profession. I sort of give people another pair of glasses or make my co-workers see things from a different angle. Under a new light. Yeah, you get it.

My idea is this will make things run more smoothly.

If we all agree that my beliefs and causes are well aligned with the people I’m trying to influence this should be a breeze. Right? No, not necessarily so. In fact, not very likely so. This is often hard work and very frustrating at times.

It is not guaranteed that I will succeed if my arguments are better formulated, more technically correct or superior in any way. The fact that the person I’m trying to influence probably already have made up his mind, even before I’m introducing my new idea, vastly complicates the process.

That’s why timing and patience is so important.

Lets say you want to introduce a couple of new ways to think in your team: TDD and Design Patterns, for instance. Talking about design patterns when a critical show stopper kind of bug recently have been discovered probably isn’t the best time. It could be very important and everyone might agree that using design patterns is good practice. But at that moment everyone is stressed out because of the bug. You want some leverage for your ideas and the bug isn’t providing that for Design Patterns. Introducing TDD however at this moment is a much better idea.

OK, so you think that’s rather obvious. How about this?

When do you effectively introduce the idea of planning by complexity/size rather than effort/time?

Is it:
a) when you’ve failed miserably with a release because of poor estimates?
or,
b) when you constantly have to add more stories at the end of each iteration?
Or even,
c) when the team members constantly disagrees on estimates

So, hotshot, which is it?

The simple answer is: It could be either a, b or c. Because it’s all about timing. Which brings us back to patience. If you’re going to be introducing a lot of new ideas which you probably want to stick around long after your out of the picture. The will to change has therefor got to be stronger than the will of staying the same. Thats not all though. While you’re learning something new you’re very vulnerable. This vulnerability has to be lowered rather then just leveraging the will to change.

So while you are leveraging the will to change you also have to create some sort of psychological sanctuary for the person your are trying to influence.

To be continued …

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About Ola Ellnestam

Agile Coach, Systems developer, Agile Practitioner and father of three.

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