The Agile Apprentice
"If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old”
I’ve always sought to discover better ways of working. Even from my very first job as a programmer maintaining back office systems, I have challenged and changed the organisational status quo everywhere I have been.
As a young, enthusiastic upstart, I believed that all organisations would always welcome opportunities for improvement. I have since learned the truth is much more complicated.
When a transplant patient receives a new organ, it might save their life. However, the body can reject the new organ, and the patient could die as a result. Organisations act the same way around change, even when rejecting the change might kill the organisation.
Why would any rational group of humans allow this to happen?
Organisations tend not to die on the operating table. The effects take months or years. So what’s the problem then, surely the organisation has plenty of time to act?
A large ship cannot turn on the spot, it takes a long time for it to change to a new heading, and it will travel a long distance during that time. Like the Titanic, the iceberg on the horizon might only become visible after the point where it was possible to steer the ship around it.
Being a change agent is like being on the Titanic and being aware of the danger of icebergs. The only thing you know for sure that will get people to act is the appearance of the iceberg, and by then, it’s already too late.
It get’s worse. Organisations that reject change can also reject change agents. Imagine standing on the bridge of the Titanic every day jumping up and down shouting about icebergs. What would the captain have done? There is a chance he might have listened, but there’s at least an equal chance he would have had you confined to your cabin! Therefore just making a lot of noise is a very risky strategy, there is a lot more skill to being a change agent than that.
The first thing you have to learn is the ability to survive in an organisation that will not always be interested in listening to you.