Thursday, February 2, 2017

Groundhog Day at the Agile Transition Initiative

Now that everyone knows about Bill Murray's movie Groundhog Day - I love February 2nd.  It's my favorite, most enjoyable, beloved, cherished, esteemed day of the year.  And I don't need to tell you again how many LIKES I give this redundant day... so on to the story.

Bill & Groundhog

Well this happened about ten years ago, and about 6 years ago, or maybe it was 4 years past, and seems like we did this about 24 months ago...  or it could be today!

The Agile Transition Initiative at the company has come upon an inflection point (do ya' know what that is...  have you read Tipping Point?).  I'm not exactly sure of it's very precise date... but Feb. 2nd would be the perfect timing.   The inflection has to do with which direction your Agile Transition Initiative takes from this point into the future.   Will it continue on it's stated mission to "transform" the organization?  Or will it stall out and revert slowly to the status quo?

How do I recognize this perilous point in the agile trajectory?  Well there are several indications.  But first we must digress.

Punxsutawney Phil Says more Winter in 2017
In this story we will use the germ theory as a metaphor.  Germ theory came about in about ... (wait - you guess - go ahead ...  I'll give you a hundred year window... guess...). That's right! "The germ theory was proposed by Girolamo Fracastoro in 1546, and expanded upon by Marcus von Plenciz in 1762."  Wow, we've know about these little buggers for a long time.  And we started washing our hands ... (when...  correct -again).  "The year was 1846, and our would-be hero was a Hungarian doctor named Ignaz Semmelweis."  So right away business (society) started using a new discovery - a better way to treat patients.... or well it took a while maybe a few months, or maybe  more than 300 years.

But back to the metaphor - in this metaphor the organization will be like a human body and the change initiative will take the roll of a germ.  The germ is a change introduced to the body by some mechanism we are not very concerned with - maybe the body rubbed up against another body.  I hear that's a good way to spread knowledge.

We are interested in the body's natural process when a new factor is introduced.  What does a body do?  Well at first it just ignores this new thing - heck it's only one or two little germs, can't hurt anything - (there are a shit load of germs in your body right now).  But the germs are there to make a home - they consume energy and reproduce (at this point lets call it a virus - meh - what the difference?).  So the virus reproduces rapidly and starts to cause ripples... the body notices this and starts to react.  It sends in the white-blood cells - with anti-bodies.  Now I don't understand the biological responses - but I could learn all about it... but this is a metaphor and the creator of a metaphor may have artistic license to bend the truth a bit to make the point.  Point - WHAT IS THE POINT?

The point is the body (or organization) will have a natural reaction to the virus (change initiative) and when the body recognizes this change it's reaction (natural - maybe call it subconscious - involuntary).  Well let's just say it's been observed multiple times - the body tries very hard to rid itself of the unwanted bug (change).  It may go to unbelievable acts to get rid of it - like tossing all it's cookies back up - or squirting all it's incoming energy into the waste pit.  It could even launch a complete shutdown of all communication to a limb and allow it to fester and die, hopefully to fall off and not kill the complete organism.  Regaining the status quo is in the fundamental wiring of the human body.  Anything that challenges that stasis requires great energy to overcome this fundamental defense mechanism.

[Pop the stack.]  So back to the indicators of the tipping point in agile transitions.  Let's see if our metaphor helps us to see these indications.  The tossing of cookies - check.  That could be new people hired to help with the change are just tossed back out of the organization.  The squirts - check.  That is tenured people that have gotten on board with the change being challenged by others to just water it down... make it look like the things we use to do.  Heck let's even re-brand some of those new terms with our meanings - customized for our unique situation - that only we have ever seen, and therefore only we can know the solutions.  Folks, this is called the Bull Shit Reaction.

Now imagine a limb of the organization that has adopted the new way - they have caught the virus.  There is a high likely hood that someone in the organization is looking at them a "special".  A bit jealous of their new status and will start hoarding information flow from that successful group.  Now true that group was special - they attempted early transition and have had (in this organizations realm)  success.  Yet there was some exception to normal business process that made that success possible.  How could we possibly reproduce that special circumstance across the whole org-chart?  Maybe we just spin them off and let them go it alone - good luck, now back to business.

What's a MIND to do with this virus ridden body and all these natural reactions?

Well we are at an inflection point... what will you do?
Which curve do you want to be on?  - by Trail Ridge Consulting

See Also:

The Fleas in the Jar Experiment. Who Kills Innovation? The Jar, The Fleas or Both? by WHATSTHEPONT

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