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Fingers, Keyboards, and Organizational Transformations

Perhaps you’ve been at your job for a while, recently took your CSM course, and are trying to figure out how to help your organization become more agile. Or perhaps you’re new to your company, but not new to Scrum – you were hired to parachute in like some Agile Ninja to help “save the day”. Either way, you’re likely pondering how you’d like to make your way to Agile.

It’s daunting. It’s dangerous. You may burst into flames.

Most will agree that trying to switch an entire traditional organization to Scrum all at once, in a “big bang” approach, can be quite deadly. Sure, some have done it successfully, but the odds are against you. The best practice, in my eyes, is to start with a single team, build on their successes, and then build more teams. Create a snowball of Agile goodness, get it rolling down the hill, and have others join you on the slopes.

I’m not however suggesting that you play it safe. After all, Scrum is Hard and Disruptive. While I suggest starting with just a single team, I in no way suggest taking the path of least resistance. Be bold. Being disoriented is useful. Embrace it.

I used to be a horrible typist. I’d hunt and peck which amounted to what was about 10 words per minute. I tried again and again to get better using typing tutor software. Sadly, try as I might, I made little to no progress. I then had an idea: what if I broke the system? What if I changed the game – erased my typing muscle memory and insisted my fingers and mind play along? Always up for an experiment, I ran out and bought a Microsoft Natural Keyboard (for my 386 no less :). The Natural Keyboard is one of those ergonomic split jobs that separate the keys by left and right hand, and put each at a bit of an angle.

Changing my keyboard so that my fingers were in new relationships to themselves did the trick. While previously I made no progress on my typing tutor program (since I kept reinforcing old patterns of hunting and pecking even when I intended not to), I made HUGE leaps with the new keyboard. Since it was harder to hunt and peck on the new keyboard than before, my fingers decided to finally play along. Was it slow going at first? Yes. Frustrating? Sure. But within no time I was typing away at 5 times my previous speed.

People, teams, and organizations have muscle memory. Take the opportunity and disruption that comes with introducing Scrum to shake things up even more. No need to go overboard though. If I had decided breaking my left hand would have helped me stop hunting and pecking, or that chopping off my right pinkie would have caused disruption to my bad typing, I guess I would have been right… But it certainly wouldn’t have gotten me to my goal of being a much faster typist.

You have a golden moment when you’re introducing Scrum. Run with it. Look inside the current development process with the team and work together to figure out what practices from other methodologies could help. Perhaps TDD, or continuous integration will give you a huge advantage when you move to Scrum (I bet it will ;). Look at your organization’s product department: what can you help shake up there? What else can you introduce from the Agile world that’ll help the organization move forward?

Shake things up! Don’t break your fingers, but be the one who points towards Agile best practices. Help people stretch. You have a beautifully disorienting moment in which people will be receptive (or, if their not, they are at least maxed out on being resistant to Scrum alone :). Seize the opportunity.

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