24 September 2009

Surfing The Transition Waves

I read the tail of a Twitter thread about the struggle of transitioning to agile at the organizational level.

The principals in the Twitter thread were Bob Marshall and Marcin Niebudek.


Transitioning command-and-control to agile seems to be a hand-wringing conversation. It's more than a team thing. It can impact an entire organization. I have little to add except to make some observations about change and to consider the insights of historic thinkers.

Transitioning to agile conversations are peppered with phrases like
  • Personal comfort zone
  • Organization momentum
  • Change in thinking
  • Paradigm shift
  • Replace the naysayers
  • No silver bullets
  • No easy answers
  • No easy path
I get impatient with my incapacity to change. With others, I get very impatient. I'm reminded of Lou Reed's deliciously cynical lyrics in Dirty Blvd
Your poor huddled masses, lets club em to death
And get it over with and just dump em on the boulevard
Many great thinkers have considered and written about change
Everything flows and nothing abides; everything gives way and nothing stays fixed... Cool things become warm, the warm grows cool; the moist dries, the parched becomes moist... It is in changing that things find repose. ~Heraclitus
The inventor of the incandescent light bulb recognized that change requires a catalyst
Restlessness and discontent are the first necessities of progress. ~Thomas Edison
An American novelist lamented that not all change is progress
All change is not growth; as all movement is not forward. ~Ellen Glasgow
An American romantic poet observed that those in power often resist
He who is firmly seated in authority soon learns to think security, and not progress. ~James Russell Lowell
In the take-no-prisoners civilized cultures we find ourselves in, we need to stay ahead of waves of change. Or get buried. Waves are fun, but can be treacherous.

I was a surfer as a teen. In surfing, you spot a swell forming. You paddle your surfboard to position yourself. Then wait. Then with the swell roiling and rising behind you, you fan the water beneath you with quick strokes. You feel yourself gaining momentum. The wave lifts your board then spews you forth. Down its face you slide. It is a ballet of recklessness and control. The swell appears. You position. The wave evolves. You adjust. The wave matures. You adjust again. It's exhilarating.
In times of profound change, the learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists. ~Eric Hoffer
Learners will stay ahead of the wave. Be prepared. Be patient.

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