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Increase Your Personal Resilience to Change

Kent Beck's seminal Agile book, Extreme Programming bears the oft-quoted subtitle: "Embrace Change".  Small businesses unable to do this disappeared from view in 2000, and now businesses large and small prudently acknowledge the need to be responsive to the reality of rapid, unforseen changes in markets and technologies.

As if this were not enough, the very effort of shifting to Agile introduces yet more change. It can be stressful to let go of old habits, to risk trying out the new, sometimes counter-intuitive patterns recommended by Agile trainers and writers.  Some team members do better under these circumstances than others.  Resilience may be one characteristic distinguishing those who thrive from those who struggle with change.

Bob Weinstein, in his article The Resilience Factor on the Gantthead Project Management site, quotes psychologist Al Siebert of the
"Highly resilient people are best suited for a world of constant change.  They don't fight against disruptive change because they adjust to new situations quickly.  They accept change and deal with it.  Resilient people's flexibility and adaptability lets them adjust their responses to achieve positive outcomes in new situations."
He goes on to talk about some basic steps which a team member can take to increase their own resiliency in the face of change. Briefly, these three steps are:
  • Create a personal plan to optimize your emotional health.
  • Problem-solve, instead of becoming overwhelmed and stuck.
    • Siebert identifies three kinds of problem-solving: Logical, Creative and Practical.
  • Master the three mind-body dimensions, which determine how resilient you are:
    • Self-confidence,
    • Self-esteem and
    • Self-concept
Al Siebert has studied highly resilient survivors for over thirty years. He is author of the new book The Resiliency Advantage: Master Change, Thrive Under Pressure and Bounce Back From Setbacks. Siebert says "Lean, customer driven, agile corporations are having difficulties finding qualified employees. The school systems are not graduating students prepared for employment in excellent, constantly changing corporations."

Team members: there is no need to wait for "the team" to resolve all their hang-ups - adding resilience to your own list of traits can make you better able to contribute your own strengths to solving those team problems.

Leaders: the short modern parable Who Moved My Cheese? may provide a way to raise the topic in the workplace, opening the door for opportunities to mentor struggling individuals.  For those serious about making the shift, it may then be useful to make them aware of the resources available to them.

Then again, there will always be those who moan "I didn't sign on for all this", who dig in their heels and undermine the change effort.  Some of these invariably leave, but others will hang on, demoralizing the team.  It may be necessary to help these people realise that their "cheese" has moved entirely elsewhere. Fortunately, it's a job-hunter's market right now...

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