How to overcome resistance in agile Transformation — the power of invitation


Almost all agile transformation projects encounter resistance from managers (Management), employees or other departments. In this article, we will explain why you encounter resistance and how to eliminate or reduce it.

Why do we encounter resistance to agile transformation? Isn’t it to improve people’s working environment and make them more efficient? Let’s assume agile is a good idea. So what’s wrong with the way we introduce it into organizations?

1、 Push creates resistance

The key challenge of “change as usual” is that change is pushed to people who are not involved in decision-making. In this way, they often refuse to change.

2、 How does push affect you?

There are many ways to create resistance, and that’s the push change. When you read the following words, think about how you felt when someone in power did this to you:

  • tell
  • sale
  • Forcing f
  • persuade

For most people, these words will feel uncomfortable.

We don’t like people telling us what to do. We don’t like being forced to do something. We don’t like people trying to sell us something or convince us to believe their point of view. When these things happen to us, naturally.

3、 Anti pattern of agile transformation

It turns out that everyone’s reaction is the same as ours. The more we push, the stronger the resistance. Here are some key antipatterns to help understand how we drive failed agile transformations by creating resistance:

  • Authorize changes to the entire organization / department. A lot of people think it’s a huge success: “cheer, everyone has to be agile now.”. But the victory was hollow and ephemeral, for it soon became a widespread case of “goods worship (a cultural renaissance that arose in many aboriginal societies in Oceania from the 19th to the mid-20th century)” which many people were doing, but nothing really changed except the name.

  • The gospel of agility. In our leadership training, I still meet a lot of people who think they are evangelists of the agile gospel. The positive side is to do things better. The negative or destructive aspect is selling and persuading. This usually causes more resistance and damage than positive. Every successful change I’ve seen is more than agile.

  • Agility index (Agile police). Another well intentioned approach to measuring the degree of “agile” teams and setting them a goal of “being more agile” has made a serious mistake in practice. This clearly tells people that agile is more important than agile itself. If you want to be successful or get a bonus here, you have to use agile. This shows that the process is more important than people – the opposite of agile.

4、 Agility is about pulling

Go deep into the true core of agile – agility is not based on push, but on pull. Like lean, Scrum teams pull the work done in the next sprint. The Kanban team pulls when it’s ready.

5、 Push failed to create pull

How can we use push to create an environment that supports pull? It doesn’t make any sense. There is evidence that pushing doesn’t work. Of course, we may be able to create something that seems to work on the surface. However, for those active and dedicated talents needed to pull the work forward, in fact, something different is needed to achieve a profound change in action.

6、 What is pull?

Similar to push lists, we can create opposite pull lists.

Think about how they feel when you read the following words:

  • invitation
  • listen for
  • inspire
  • Co creation

For most people, these words are positive. This is what we want to create in the organization that promotes success.

We like the freedom of choice. We like to be invited, which is optional for us. So we can decide for ourselves. We like to be heard what we want. When we are inspired and excited about something, it feels really good. We like to be involved in decisions that affect us. Can you imagine how effective your change plan is when people feel that way?

7、 Pull success mode

It’s much easier to see what we did wrong than what we did right. Let’s look at some of the key success patterns using pull. If you are not familiar with these, or if you are skeptical, we will invite you to experiment with them to try them out.

  • listen for. Most people want to succeed. Most teams want to succeed. A big challenge is that we often don’t take the time to listen to what they want and what they think. Take the time to listen to what they want. Meet what they want. Before you tell them what you think or want, give them a list so you can get more.

  • Go where it’s alive. The way to create widespread success is to achieve small success and build on it. Work with people or teams who really need help now, give them the help they want (listen) and help them succeed. Over time, other people or teams may be ready, or they may see what’s going on.

  • Create solutions together. Agile is about collaboration, right? If we follow the agile approach, will we work with people on the transformation itself, is that obvious? I like to co create this term because it involves people affected by change. This is similar to the approach advocated by lean change and open space agile. One of the differences I see in the work is that managers and supervisors also need to be involved in the process with their employees. Of course, this usually requires training managers to learn how to give up power in a helpful and harmless way.

8、 Push and pull

The images below help us to compare our choices in working with employees and teams in agile transformation initiatives.

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One of the key challenges in transforming our mindset into this new way of working (Agile) is that it’s uncomfortable. In particular, we usually have very low skill levels in the “pull” mode. It really takes a moment to see how you can inadvertently “push” to create resistance. Once we understand that push doesn’t work, we have the courage to be new to pull. There’s a lot more to say about operating in a friendly (pull) way, so if you think that’s not all, you’re right.

9、 Agility is about people

The core of agile is that “individuals and interactions are higher than processes and tools”. The core success model of agile is that success comes when we focus more on people than on processes. Most agile transformations put the cart before the horse, focusing on the process. The usual push behavior makes it clear that most “agile transformations” are actually not agile at all.

10、 The second wave of agility

We need a fundamental reflection on agile to overcome today’s challenges. We call it the second wave of agility. It means putting people first and inviting change. Abandon destructive push behavior, it’s not about letting everyone do it. It’s about our leaders themselves starting to simulate what we want to see in other people. Are you ready to join the second wave of agile?

11、 What do you do tomorrow

  • Pay attention to how other people use push behavior and how it affects you.
  • Notice where you use push behavior and how it creates resistance.
  • Add “agile / pull” activities to see how people react.

Translator: Nian Zhijun
Checked by: Bob Jiang\

This article starts from Bob Jiang’s blog. Please contact Bob Jiang for reprint

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