Change requires belief

This morning I was listening to a Planet Money podcast about the US Federal Reserve’s battle with inflation in the 70’s. The Federal Reserve chairman, then Paul  Volcker, made a series of changes to halt high inflation (over 10%) that should have worked – in theory – but in practice no one believed that they would so they didn’t. Why? Because employers, employees and consumers alike maintained their spending and budget habits that fed into the inflationary cycle. Employees demanded pay rises, employers obliged and consumers bought goods sooner rather than later to avoid price increases – more money chasing fewer goods. It sounds like the London housing market but let’s leave that discussion for another day.

Change is often difficult because it involves breaking old habits, uncovering information and embracing risk. It also needs the basic conviction that another way is possible.

I became a believer in a lean way of working after attending the ThoughtWorks seminars in London and reading about the Toyota Production System by Jeffrey Licker. The way I understand it, agile describes a way of working that emphasises solving problems end-to-end, makes quality a group responsibility and empowers each team member to make decisions on how they work.

While following a learning path on Safari Books online – The Professional ScrumMaster’s handbook I was reminded of reasons I have heard to block change.

Why Change? What Blocks?
– takes so long for tangible deliverables, then, they’re not right – top-down management
– allows adaptation to late requests – confusion of roles
– trade-offs are easier – crawling out of past architectural decisions
– need informed, two-way planning – pressure
– need team empowerment – engineering mind-set
– want a better quality of life – tools, training, and feedback mechanisms

Help others visualize the desired change from The Professional ScrumMaster’s Handbook –

How difficult the blocking challenges are depend on each situation but they are not insurmountable. Training takes time and persistence, pressure can be deflected, confusion can be illuminated but without the conviction to follow through on our aspirations we crush our hopes prematurely and tempt irrelevance.


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