How do you know they are resistant?

Have you encountered resistance to change? What are the signs that would tip you off? Body language, e.g. cross arms, face away from you? Facial expressions, e.g. smirks, frowns, curled lips, sneer chin up? Tone of voice, like sarcastic grunts, noises showing contempt? Or maybe you detect it in their attitude? e.g. being sarcastic, uncooperative, negative, fighting everything you say.

My colleague and I thought that it’s possible for anyone to resist change, depending on what changes those are. However, when we did a search on “signs of resistance to change”, to our horror, all the posts came back to tell us about employees’ resistance to change, and how executives deal with employees’ resistance to change. Even when we change to explicitly search for “signs executives are resistant to change”, most of the articles still come back to employee resistance. How come no one talks about executives themselves? Haven’t you experienced executives’ resistance to changes?

Most of the agile transformations that we’ve seen typically occur at the team level. Then these transformations hit a glass ceiling when it goes up the management chain. The higher it goes, the thicker the ceiling. So, how do we know when we are hitting those ceilings? What signs do we see? Or rather, what do we hear most often?

  • “When is the project done?” 
  • “Are you going over budget?”
  • “We need to standardize how we measure. 1 story point needs to mean the same thing for all teams.”
  • “How come Team X only delivers 30 points while Team Y delivers 80?”
  • “I want engineers to put the hours in JIRA, so I can know how much effort it took”
  • “I want engineers to put the hours in JIRA, so we can depreciate our CapEx costs.”
  • “Agile is supposed to be faster, right? How come the projects are still not done?”
  • “Hey – I want my team to do this other thing I just thought up. What do you mean they can’t do it? I thought they were agile…”
  • “I’m paying my engineers too much money for them to be idle. They need to be at 100% capacity – more would be better. That’s the only way they would deliver faster.”
  • “I don’t care how you do it. I want that feature delivered by this exact date.”
  • “What do you mean I can’t change my mind 3 times this week? I thought you’re agile…”

These are our collective experiences. Interestingly, even though my colleague and I worked for different companies, we heard the same thing. When you hear or see these things happen, you can bet that Agile is viewed by your senior management only as a delivery mechanism, and that Agile cannot apply to them or the rest of the company. However, the company is only as agile as its least agile department. No matter how much Agile your teams do, they’ll be impacted by things at the executive level if your executives are resistant to change their behaviors.

(reposting from Our Agile Tales)

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