It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change. --Charles Darwin
Daniel Burm once written a blog post titled: "BE Agile Before You Become Agile".
This is a great title as it describes in one short sentence the biggest problem companies face when trying to become Agile.
Humans hate change. It's against our nature, against our experience, against our evolution. Changing environment poses threat while stable and predictable environment allows us to relax and be comfortable. This idea is presented brilliantly in the DreamWorks animated film "The Croods". I bet you can map all characters from this film in your company.
How can we overcome our natural resistance to change? Well, both Daniel and "The Croods" suggest that to become agile and embrace change one should experience a change him or herself. One should experience the benefits of a change in one's own skin. But how can this happen? Usually - change forced on us. Croods family forced to change as their environment changes. Companies forced to change as their market changes. Unfortunately only in tales we have lots of happy endings, in real life individuals and companies that forced to change but fail to do so are getting out of business. The question is: if individuals and companies would embrace change and become spiritually agile - will they have more chances of success?
Accept it: change will happenActually, it already happened. And again. Something changes every second. Maybe even you. Most likely - your company. Surely - your market. "The Times They Are A Changin'" and not only times. There is no point to be scared about something that inevitably will happen, isn't it? Like death or taxes, if you can't avoid it - there is no point to worry about it. Same story with a change, if it's all around us and within us, then we just accept it and focus on positives it brings.
The winner takes it allPessimists vs optimists. Your approach to change depends on who you are, despite its objective meaning, which does not exist. We hear these stories all the time, how bad, terrible even dramatic changes that happened to people made them stronger and led them to a better tomorrow. Stories that not that often told are the ones where something minor changed in one's life and human perception made it worse, much worse. We all play lottery, cortical lottery. It affects our perception despite our wishes. Those who won the cortical lottery (who's brain express more activity in the left frontal cortex) are generally have tendencies to experience more positive emotions and be "happier" than those who lost the lottery. That is one of the possible explanations why certain people embrace change and think an "opportunity" rather than a "problem". And how about companies? Well, they led by people, winners or not so. And if your company led by a person (or a few) who naturally pessimistic - it'll take a great deal of time and effort to establish an agile philosophy and embrace changes.
Letting goIn personal life we let go often: things we liked, people that were close to us, old habits, ideas of who we were... continue the list on your own. For some it's easy, for others it's a pain. In corporate life, we also need to let go, though it's a bit more complicated as it affects and concerns more than one person usually. Products that used to sell well, but now just generating losses, client that used to be a "whale", but now orders once in two years, technology that served us so well for years, but it costs more and more every day to maintain, even this process that not really well documented, but it surely in the heads of the most employees, yet nobody could recall why you apply it in the first place and what's the point of keep doing it. Lot's of things companies need to let go.
Yet they rarely do. Why? Because usually, those who want to let go and acknowledge such need are not the ones who decides. And then it takes ages and mountains of effort to convince ones who decides to let go.
What could you do to embrace change ?
Document changeSome people like making pictures? Do you? I don't, I prefer to live the moment rather than document it. But documenting a moment can help you in future. You might retrospective look at yourself and acknowledge, understand and accept the change that happened to you. And if you're a company it makes much more sense. Employees come and go, roles and owners change, but it always important to know how it was and how it changed. Good practice is to document each key decision taken, each important meeting and each major market shift.
Fear of change vs Fear of regretYou probably heard that one before: "I would rather regret something I've done than the fact I've never tried to". A fear of regret is a powerful stimulus to overcome a fear of change. Sometimes it's easier to take a decision and deal with consequences than constantly thinking what would have happened. Big companies are obsessed with data driven, "safe" decisions making. Every, even smallest change needs to be carefully analyzed, tested, estimated, predicted, planned, mitigated... Usually, such approach costs a fortune of time and money. Yet when it's time to make a decision - lots stuck in "analysis paralysis". In comparison, there are other who say "move fast and break things" or "just do it". Is it riskier? - surely. Yet it remains a viable strategy that allows moving quicker. Next time when you catch yourself thinking again and again about the opportunity cost - make yourself aware of losses in time and brain cells that you spent trying to be 100% sure.
Keep on learning"Sometimes you win - every time you learn". Despite the outcomes of a change in your personal or corporate life - every time you can learn something valuable. Information is easy to get, knowledge is hard to figure out while wisdom could only be earned. By experiencing change you can earn wisdom that otherwise would not crystallize in your head. Those who moved houses number of times would be much more prepared to that than the one who needs to do that for the first time. An entrepreneur who starts his fifth business would avoid most mistakes that the first-time CEO will inevitably make. After 50 sprints a team knows tons more than after 10. Win or loose - move forward and keep on learning.
I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.
Thomas A. Edison