Process change shouldn’t always start with process change

A software development process is just an implementation of an idea someone had — an idea that has since taken root and flourished in people’s mind. People often identify with a process they’ve grown comfortable with and simply asking them to drop it and adopt a new one will not get you much buy-in. As a change agent, you most likely will have to deal with fear mongering, ridicule, death by delay, and stirred up confusion and doubt.

However, as John Kotter advised, “Don’t try to crush attackers with ridicule, counterattacks, or condescension, even when it seems as though people deserve it, even when a part of you really wants to do just that, and you have the skills to do so.” Instead let the attackers in and let them take pot-shots at you — that at least gives you an opportunity to have a conversation with those who aren’t yet proponents for the change.

If you want to change the current process you have to start with changing what people think about the process, what they like about it, and how they relate to it. Try to win their hearts by showing respect and keeping your responses clear, crisp, simple, and common-sensical. Show them that the proposed change is in their best interest and that you have no private ends to serve. Focus on changing what’s in their minds before attempting to tinker with the process if you want buy-in and lasting change.

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