I was talking with a colleague today who works in knowledge management and organizational development. He told me an interesting story about when he was helping an organization move from mainframe-based systems to browser-based systems over a decade ago.
The ‘dumb-terminal’ operators had extremely low proficiency in web-browsers since most of them had never used browsers before. Over the next year they hired people who were rated as having much higher proficiency in using browser-based systems.
Later in the year they measured the proficiency of the new hires and the results were surprising to me. They actually rated themselves lower in browser proficiency and much closer to the proficiency levels of the people who had been working solely on dumb-terminals.
He explained some of the behaviour behind this to which I’m sure most people can relate.
Operator: “oh, we can’t change that date here. It just gets messed up so we have to back out of two screens and change it somewhere else. And, oh, we can’t type in the date, sometimes it just doesn’t save right”
The dreaded workarounds. I’ve seen this in many places where the culture of the users of the system gets paralyzed by crappy software. New hires will have energy to try and make changes but in a culture that doesn’t value craftsmanship and competence, they’ll simple become part of the collective because it uses less energy to learn the workarounds and deal with them than try to change anything.
In this particular organization, he mentioned the staff had been there for decades and that culture is extremely difficult to change.
Have you ever heard how hockey players that play with elite player like Crosby and Gretzky say things like “these guys make everyone around them better”? There’s something about working side-by-side with incredibly talented people that is motivating. For me anyway.
The next time someone in your organization tells you “oh, that’s just the way things are around here” question that assumption. Maybe you’ll become apathetic and dis-engaged like over half of all workers in the world over time but maybe, just maybe, you’ll inspire others to challenge the status quo and create un-believably wicked awesomeness.
PSL 2012 is coming up in May this year, I had the pleasure of attending last year and it was a life-changing experience. Here’s 3 reasons why you ‘should just’ go.
- You’ll learn to stop saying “should” and “just”: I worked with a company that had a problem with too many bugs. When a doozy would pop-up the usual all-hands-on-deck emergency meeting happened. The output was “we should do X to make Y not happen again”. Everybody nodded and felt great about this new epiphany! Shame nothing actually got done. When you say “we should do X” you remove all sense of responsibility on you and everybody else. It’s an action-less modal verb. I “just” thought this point would be valuable. Did you feel the power of this paragraph dissipate? ”I just through this point…” means I have no confidence in what I “just” said. Stop saying “should” and “just”. PSL will help you figure out how.
- You’ll become more self-aware: Self-awareness leads to improvement. I had many of my patterns reflected back to me during the week and PSL gave me many tools to figure out how to recognize those patterns and more importantly how to work on fixing them. Other people aren’t the problem, understand how you intake and process information and you’ll be much more self-aware.
- You’ll learn how to spot problems: Well duh, it’s called PROBLEM SOLVING LEADERSHIP, what did you expect? Seriously though, I get criticized for being too negative because I do not, nor will I ever, accept the status quo. PSL taught me how to do this, diplomatically and brutally. I usually prefer the brutal truth yet I realize the need for telling the kinder truth sometimes. If you cannot challenge the status quo and treat every problem as it’s own unique set of circumstances, (which they are, but generally humans use that as an excuse to not dig deeper “oh, it was an anomaly…it won’t happen again”), you’ll struggle with developing a problem solving attitude in your organization and you’ll be doomed to mediocrity.
- You’ll Have Fun!!! PSL was a blast! Intense learning, strong relationships were formed with people I never met before and it was extremely fun! I do have another problem though. The title of this post says ’3 Reasons’, yet I have listed 4. How can I solve this problem? ;-)
PSL will sell out fast, go sign-up now!
I was bummed to miss out on Agile Coach Camp in Columbus a couple weeks ago so I had to settle for enjoying the tweet stream. One such tweet that stuck out was this one:
“The #agile community is too closed. We are doing intellectual incest, and congratulating ourselves for it.” ~@mhsutton #ACCUS“
I can understand and appreciate the comment, I’ve posted many times about how I think the Agile community is disconnected from the reality that organizations are going through. Having said that, I’d have to disagree with the statement that the Agile community is too closed. Continue reading