Know how, when & what to unlearn for achieving agility

The base foundation of agility is to manage change well. Given the context that change is constant and pervasive, does it make any sense to keep applying the same techniques and tools we have always used?

I don’t think so, everyone most of the times around the world emphasize on the importance of new learning to gain good hold on the proceeding and lead the future in the market race. But in the new era of turmoil hitting organizations going down there is equal amount emphasis that needs to put on unlearning as well.

But unlearning can be hard to come. Learning to unlearn is the new course being introduced in many companies around the world just to get the staff grounded on the new developments in the field of technology that mandate us to leave our old habits, attitudes and approaches to gain mileage on doing things right.

Psychological studies have shown that the mental models aren’t discharged easily.

Some examples:

1)      Free form structural coding practices new developers bring from their academics or old programming language experiences.

2)      Late integration, people are used to feel happy as their code shows working signals.

3)      Usage of old language features though new better ones are available. Eg: Java new for loop & auto boxing stuff.

4)      Writing code instead of leveraging the features, classic problem I have seen in freshers & traditional language developers who want to write their own programs for sorting, caching etc. Conscious effort needs should go in to avoid these and use latest design patterns & API available to avoid the traps.

I have mentioned more of the technical problems above to relate more closely for IT service organizations struggling to drive the change. The concept we are discussing is more of soft change an individual needs to imbibe.

Coaches spend most of their time with delivery teams who are part of a big change. Take my word teams face lot of challenges adapting to the change. I have seen in most cases it is very easy to expect change than being part of change. As leaders we have to bring in change, only way is it to be active part of the change. Result of leaders being part of the change is that we don’t have to stress the importance of change to the team and also by making ourselves part of solution we encourage self organizing behaviours within agile teams.

Teams generally have to go through the big process of change which is highly critical for their success as an agile team. Couple of the visible changes teams notice are :

  • Delivery in short iterations
  • Estimating & Committing their own work
  • Focus on the engineering practices
  • Meetings discipline
  • Seeking & giving the help
  • Learning through retrospections

As a coach I strongly believe in the below statement:

“Don’t push agile on teams instead create environment to collaborate & adopt, agility will follow”

I always stress on the importance of unlearning as a group with my delivery teams it plays a vital role in improving agility. Beliefs & behaviours are natural to all of us and are very difficult to change them instantly. Best of the leaders struggle with putting change into practice, One of the key tool for all coaches is to make the group commit for the changes that drives the energy to live or sustain practices on the team. When team practices the change they watch each other & correct themselves, also improve learning in the team.

I have conducted a dedicated training to teach unlearning for introducing agile change into an organization as part of change acceleration process, details of these change would be part of another share some time 🙂  Leaders in an enterprise need to understand the patterns of existing things and how they loop into new context. We need to use unlearning as a tool to learn the new things and attain success.

Striking balance in achieving this is very important as the process is very critical & impacting for success of an enterprise.

Please share your experiences driving the agile changes in teams & organizations. Happy Coaching 🙂


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