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Driving Change

Driving Change

Are you happy? This seems to be a difficult question to answer these days. If you ask a developer (and I frequently do this, as a consultant), you tend to get an answer along the lines of "if it was not for the legacy code". Often, this is followed by a list of things that should or need to be changed, either with regard to legacy code, the development process, or the company in general.

Today, many companies are focusing more and more on driving change. They have realized that change is a continuous process, and that change takes time. It takes time, especially in a large organization. Yes, I am well aware that I am basically speaking about being "agile" here.

When it comes to working with developers in a changing organization, however, they often feel that they are stuck somewhere, because they are waiting on a pending change of the organization to be completed. Sometimes, even a big change, which is expected to take quite some time.

Such a situation is clearly problematic. People feel they cannot move on because other parts of the organization need to move first. Looking at the big picture, this is just a big and complex mesh of cyclic dependencies and basically a deadlock. This puts the ability to change at risk.

As we expect for others to change, they might also expect us to change. And as we wait for change to happen, so do others, which makes it impossible to really drive change.

A Simple Solution

There is something that you can do to about this. All you need is a few minutes of your time, a pen, and a piece of paper. Now make a list of exactly three things that should be different in your daily work. Put the focus on yourself or your team, rather than the whole organization.

A typical list might contain items like "I feel unproductive because people in my vicinity talk too loud","Bob needs to put more focus on the formatting of the source code", or "I rely too much on global state, and thus have problems testing my code".

Now take a minute to pick the one item from your list that affects you the most. This is what you will be working on during the next two weeks. Start right now by answering the following question: "What do I need to do right now to change this?". It is not about the team, or the organization, it is about you in the first place. Make your first step small enough. For the next two weeks, make it a daily mantra to work on your change. Instead of expecting the world around you to change first, change something for yourself. This way, you will start to drive change in your team, and ultimately in the company.

In two weeks, take a few minutes again and create another list of impediments. Do not reuse any old list, as your priorities and other influencing factors may have changed in the meantime. Make sure you start today and keep the process up for at least three months.