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The Sustainable Advantage of Agility
Lee Sexton, Director Agile & DevOps TransformationSoftServe
Each change requires a degree of maturity across the organization, the teams, application architecture, and the platform. Therefore, these occurrences present opportunities for failure if change is not managed.
This may sound simple—so, why do transformations fail, and why is change so difficult to achieve? Implementing any change within a business is challenging, partly because humans are naturally not inclined to change character and belief. People are key to transformation but are also the likely cause of personal failures.
Change challenges people’s beliefs—people believe they are doing the correct things by trying everything possible to create success. However, as soon as people are told whatever has been done is wrong, there is bound to be a certain amount of disagreement and defensive, irrespective of how wrong people may be.
Leon Festinger, an American social psychologist, concluded that the cognitive dissonance theory, or at least the avoidance of it, makes a human a strong conviction, and one unlikely to change opinion in the face of contradiction (i.e., immune to evidence and rational argument). As quoted by Festinger in the 1950s, “Tell him you disagree, and he turns away. Show him facts and figures, and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic, and he fails to see your point.”
Learning by active experience is key while instructing someone is not just telling them something but encouraging them to participate
Another American psychologist, Jerome Bruner devised the ‘Knowing Is A Process, Not A Product’ iterative approach, which can also be used to revisit ideas until they reach a high level of understanding. Learning by active experience is key while instructing someone is not just telling them something but encouraging them to participate. Burner developed a federally funded curriculum in the late 1960s called Man: A Course of Study (MACOS), which used examples from different times and places to ask basic questions about human behavior and morality. MACOS is applied in the USA, UK, and many other countries as a process to teach children.
This process is no different in a transformation, the iterative approach, or when revisiting ideas till students reach a high level of understanding and encouraging everyone to participate.
Creating a culture of innovation and adaptability is hard— as we discussed in Festinger’s research, people will always find an argument to re-assert personal beliefs. This leads to the cold reality that not everyone will change. Therefore, it’s crucial to hire talent that believes in principles which managers are looking to implement. More importantly, hiring individuals with a vision to recognize change is inevitable.
Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon—a business disrupting the market with immense success, quoted: “In today’s era of volatility, there is no other way but to re-invent. The only sustainable advantage you can have over others is agility—that’s it. Because nothing else is sustainable, and everything else you create, somebody else will replicate.”
Harboring the correct mindset is an important part of being a team player—far more important than possessing technical or competency skills because an individual’s mindset is hardest to change. “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change,” said Charles Darwin, English naturalist and geologist.
Leaders need to develop the best opportunity to hire the best talent in the market. Follow Jerome Bruner’s approach and iteratively lead teams through the spiral curriculum, effectively allowing them to build up knowledge and confidence. This should enable leaders to up-skill current teams. Consider creating maturity models to review your organization and allow teams to use the model to plan training.
Leaders must be honest with transformation goals, as there is often an irony with transformations, that they aim to modernize delivery, but are instead planned and delivered using the same methods and processes they are supposed to replace. Therefore, transformation needs to be advocated as the first Agile project.
This is a journey in which one seeks a cultural change in an organization and needs consistent evolvement because of the various factors and variables involved. Kaizen is a continual investment but one with significant returns.
Now is the time for businesses to transform—survival is not guaranteed, and growth has to be won. Becoming Agile is essential to keep up with the speed at which society is developing.