Change is hard, still

Posted by Doc
Apr 17 2011

I had a chat with a new friend yesterday. We walked down the road from the hotel into Wolvercote, and chatted about life and work.

This fellow manages a development team. He’s concerned that they’re not as effective as he thinks they could be, that they have a low “bus factor” (my term), and that testing in particular is not what it could be. They have legacy code, and it sounded like they have quite a bit of specialization, in spite of having only four developers.

I latched onto that last point first. “Have you tried pairing?” I asked.

“No, I hadn’t really thought of it yet.”

Lots of intermediate discussion…

“What do you do when you have an odd number of people?”

I knew he was listening carefully, and yet I was getting a feeling of resistance. I tried to offer ways in which he could get buy in from the team, make some changes that would encourage them to think and examine the way they’ve been working, and make it a team thing, not something imposed from above.

“Well, I’m really concerned about the testers.”

I suggested co-location, or some version of it. He explained that they have separate two-person offices, and he can’t change that.

All of this got me to wondering whether he really wants to facilitate change, or he just wants to talk about it. He said some of the right things, but when it got down to actually doing it, he repeatedly explained to me how hard it would be, and what the obstacles are.

Change is hard. Embrace change only if you really believe that it has the potential to deliver benefit. And then embrace it wholeheartedly.

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