Disrupting the Status Quo

A couple weeks back my manager called me a ‘shit disturber’ and that folks complain about my disruptions. Actually, his comment was they ‘complain about me’ but I understand that it’s the disruption change causes that folks are uneasy with.

My personal anonymous feedback and ‘official 360 feedback’ state the exact opposite. Many mentioned they found disruption refreshing.

Jurgen recently posted about the dangers of stagnation. Introducing change in a complex adaptive system is like constantly trying to hit a moving target. That first introduction of the foreign element has changed the system and there is no way I know of to predict the outcome given what complexity science says.

Much of what I do is disrupting the status quo. I like to call it kicking the bear or poking the system and its necessary in order to bring change, otherwise you remain stuck in the status quo and become stagnant.

Cynefin is a framework that can help you make sense of your organization. In a complex system, you probe, sense and respond (Cynefin), in a chaotic system you act, sense, respond. Today’s knowledge based organizations generally fit into complex or chaotic meaning they are less structured and predictable.

A pattern I’ve observed at work is that while we preach continuous improvement, the first practice that gets ignored are retrospectives because people are too busy.

I was going to facilitate a retrospective with a team and the PM cancelled it an hour before the start time.

I replied to the whole team and said I’ll be in room and we’ll do it anyway for those who could make it.

That was intentional.

That provoked a threat (and quite hostile) response from the PM (which I expected) and we had a great chat about why he reacted like that. Those details aren’t important here.

Whether you’re going through an agile transformation, process changes or any other organizational change, you cannot expect to behave the same way and use the same tools and methods and still make progress. That includes trying to hammer lean and agile practices into your broken functional structure.

The agile community likes to refer to this as changing your mindset.

I don’t agree.

It’s about changing small behaviours every week and the collection of those new behaviours will create a new culture. Or not.

Change isn’t linear, nor predictable. Sometimes you need to poke the bear with a stick and hold the mirror up to reflect people’s behaviour back to them.

If that makes me a shit disturber, I’m ok with it.