Culture of Change: Learn and Change Processes

Learn about the reflection, learning, and change cycle in agile development.

Changing means giving up a habit only to replace it with another habit. A change happens whenever a foreign element (any external stimuli) brings our status quo out of balance. The foreign element moves us into a status called chaos, also known as uncertainty. This uncertainty is based on the fact that the old status quo is not valid anymore, we have not found a new status quo yet, and we are still looking for one. This search can take a while, and once we have a transformative idea (an idea that helps us to understand the required change), we will be able to leave the chaos state and settle into our new (improved) status quo.

Learn and change processes

The decision by a company to run some of its projects using an agile process implies that the company will undergo a major change. Any change involves a departure from the existing status quo, which is exchanged for a new, and hopefully better, status quo. This process is similar to the way we learn.

Note: Learning and change processes are part of each other. Change is a learning process, and learning is a change process.

Therefore, in order to successfully install an agile process, a company has to be willing not only to change but also to learn. Both of these imply letting go of a familiar and probably convenient environment and swapping it with something unknown, which is always frightening. Neither learning nor change can be imposed on the organization. The people within the organization have to recognize the necessary changes on their own in order to give up their habits.

The reflection, learning, and change cycle in Agile

Organizations must provide an environment that enables learning and change. In order to establish such a learning organization, the organization, or rather the staff, will have to reflect on its status quo and desired status. It is only in such an environment that team members will be able to discover what steps are required to reach the desired status. Introducing an agile process is a good start toward becoming a learning organization because it is a major change.

Every agile process contains the following subtle steps:

  • Reflection
  • Learning
  • Change

The reflection is not only a self-reflection, it is, more importantly, a reflection on the feedback obtained.

Now that we have talked generally about change and learning, what does this mean in terms of agile development? We all know that requirements can and will change over time. We still try in vain to prevent this from happening by using development processes that are unable to deal with these changing requirements.

Note: Most management strategies are geared either to reduce the number of changes or to control changes. While these strategies are useful, it is more useful to embrace change than to try and control it.

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