I have been fortunate enough to work with (usually) open-minded people. This made my work a pleasure – working with a person who is not willing to change and says “no” to everything new is tough compared to someone open for new ideas and concepts, someone who likes to experiment and learn. Now imagine a whole organization of people “made of concrete”. Making a change in such a place is extremely hard or even impossible. So, what can we do about this? Well, first we need to know why they behave like this.
There can be several reasons, to list at least a few:
- Fear of change,
- High position combined with lack of skills,
- Herd behavior.
Fear of change is for most of us a natural reaction. In general, our organisms love stability and predictability. New or unknown environments might seem hostile to us, which causes fear (which in general is useful in case of dangers as it causes us to run away or fight for survival in case of dangers). As we are afraid of the unknown (we do not know how to react, what to expect and what others can expect from us), the natural reaction is escape (“Sorry, we have a critical issue with servers, I won’t make it for the planning”) or fight (“What kind of nonsense is that meeting? We only meet! We should work, this is just a waste of time!”). The greater the fear the harder the fight. In such cases the first thing to do is to find the source of fear and work on it together with the person. It needs a lot of empathy, time, patience and strength of will and the result is not always guaranteed.
Have you ever worked with a dev/business analyst who discusses every simple detail and when everyone agrees what needs to be done requires the help of two other people to fulfill the task while he or she keeps discussing without delivering anything? Such employees might be reluctant to change due to a lack of skills. After a few years of this kind of work experience those people are becoming completely tied to the organization they work in. Any change (either in the current organization or when applying for a new job) can be harmful, both in terms of money and position, as it might show their lack of skills, hence they oppose it. In teams that are working agile such behavior becomes transparent. It is important to detect it and react in such cases – this might be frustrating for others in the organization. Reactions can vary, each case is individual. It might result in moving the person to another department, to another position (that matches the skills of the person) or ending cooperation.
Leo Murray indicates “cohesion” as one of the crucial success factors in his book “Brains & bullets: how psychology wins wars”. One thing impacts it a lot – herd behavior (both in a positive and negative way). When part of the team falls back, then the rest of it would probably do the same. It works identically in any other group of people, especially in a company. As a result, even if one person (especially one with a strong personality) opposes the transformation for whatever reason, others might follow, even if they are in favor of the change. Herd behavior doesn’t allow them to do something else than the rest of the group. In such situations another person to follow is needed (change angel/agent – a trustworthy leader like another strong and courageous person from the team or e.g. a Scrum Master) or something must be done with the opposing one. And here we get back to the paragraph about fear of change – identify the fear of the opposing person and work on it. By taking care of this issue you might fix the reluctance of the whole team/department.