Friday, February 19, 2010

Change and how we feel

Why is it that we change? And how do we feel about it? And how does change stick?

My business is to change people, including myself. As a change agent, one is always interested to know more about why people change. No, not that really, but rather, how do we get people to change. And stay changed.

One idea is that you discuss things rationally, and if the reason says 'yes' then the person will change. Now, this is obviously a very simplistic idea of what people are about. Simple is good sometimes, but I find this simple idea, much as I sometimes want it to be true, is just wrong. Almost always. Even those who say they are rational are not. For example.

So, spending all your time appealing to the reason is probably not the best idea. (This is not to suggest you propose ideas that are not reasonable.) It may be that if something else in the person wishes already to say yes, then the reason may slow him down, maybe even turn the answer to a 'no'. But the reason is not where real change comes from. Or such is my current theory for virtually everyone.

My god, I lift my eyes up unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. I am lost in this wilderness of change. How will I be found?

Yes, change will happen, despite what anyone wants or says. So, if you are a change agent, one must wait for the wave of change to arise and ride and even direct it as best one can.

So, how might we direct it?

Well, if a person can see an attractor, or a higher attractor, in the change that you are proposing (versus other options), she is more likely to move toward the change you propose.

We also know that most people resist moving from the 'comfort' that they know, so often she needs a reason to leave the current comfort. Often despite the fact that she feels that current 'comfort' as painful sometimes or even often. 'The devil one knows is better than the devil one doesn't know.' So, one thing a change agent can do is enable higher perception of the pain of the current situation.

These are simple ideas, yes. Ones you probably know. But it is the simplest ideas that are the hardest to execute on. Over and over and over and over again. As Churchill said: "Never, never, never, never give in." And he did not.

Now, making this pleasure-pain idea richer does not require a return to the hedonists of Greek philosophy. What people feel as pleasure and pain (in this context) has many dimensions or attributes. Not just the five senses. Not just ego. Not just Maslow's hierarchy of needs, etc, etc.

Deploying this pleasure-pain idea to help people change is, on one view, quite simple, and on another, quite sophisticated. In life, most of us are like 4 year olds being utterly manipulated (for own benefit) by our mothers. You must become that mother. That good mother who does not always explain all. The focus is upon the lollipop as we go to the doctor's office (not that needle).

How do we sustain the change?

Well, from economics (the dismal science) we know of a thing called buyers remorse. We know that very often people buy 'agile' not because they want it, or because of agile itself, but because they invest it with all the attributes of things they do want. They make it more than anything can be. And then later they feel disappointed.

Like the lotus-eaters in the Odyssey, we want to eat the leaf to stay in a state of pleasure, indolent and unaware of the truth. Well, at least part of us wants to do, a lot of the time.

But later we reject this, feeling a buyers remorse, since we maybe bought the wrong thing (or, agile turns out to be different than the fantasy we wanted it to be). And Scrum can certainly show lots of painful bits. But it is not Scrum that is painful; Scrum just allows us to see the painful bits more clearly, will not let us avoid seeing them.

So how to sustain the change?

First, we must expect it to be somewhat hard. We must set reasonable expectations, as they say.

And we must put again and again the focus on the real lollipop. On the many many many good things that Scrum also gives us.

There are many good things. Let me focus on one now. Improved velocity, velocity based on story points completed per Sprint.

If you were Michael Phelps, and you had no measurement, and your coach asked you to get better again today, what would you say? You would likely say "Coach, I am already better than everyone in this pool here in South Carolina the last 3 weeks. I can't get any better. I need time off to go smoke some weed!" But you as a coach know that, yes, the body needs some pleasures, but the soul in the longer term will take more satisfaction by achieving a great goal, but showing others that despite having many faults (and Michael Phelps, like the rest of us, has many faults and weaknesses), despite all that one can achieve great great things.

And fortunately, that coach has a way of clearly measuring success and clearly measuring improvement. And clearly measuring the improvement of the competitors.

And we have this in Scrum too. For the Team, it is velocity measured in story points. Without that, the Team says: "Well, I think we have improved a lot. And we always have impediments. Let's not do a retrospective, let's not take time to remove impediments, let's just chip away at the real work and try to make the deadline." (And let's make sure we are not held accountable.)

But really, while so many times velocity is the cross upon which the Team will be crucified, it is in fact the glory of the Team. It shows how much they have improved. It gives them the pride to know they are hyperproductive (if they are, and they all can be...well, virtually all, by their own standard).

We need the numbers to have the emotion. Odd, but true. Or so I think and feel.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Really? I actually read a little of this... really? huh