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Changing to Agile – a messy metamorphosis

By March 10, 2011 No Comments

Nigel Dalton speaking at Agile Australia 2009 on Changing to Agile

A picture I have used often to talk about the journey to Agile ways of working shows a series of beautiful chrysali hanging from a branch.

The audience are generally lulled into a serene state as they presume I’m saying the change will occur silently, secretly before their eyes.

But the purpose of the image is to illustrate a wonderful quote from Pat Barker‘s Regeneration Trilogy, a remarkable story tracing the treatment of officers returning from the hell of World War 1’s front lines at the Somme with bizarre injuries that see them struck dumb, wracked with pain when they have no wounds, and generally insane. The men are treated by a Dr Rivers, who experiments with radical new approaches to reach inside the men’s minds to where the damage has been done.

“Rivers knew only too well how often the early stages of change or cure may mimic deterioration. Cut a chrysalis open, and you will find a rotting caterpillar. What you will never find is that mythical creature, half caterpillar, half butterfly, a fit emblem of the human soul, for those whose cast of mind leads them to seek such emblems. No, the process of transformation consists almost entirely of decay.”

My point is that if you get overly-analytical on the state of your transformation to Agile’s better, smarter ways of working, you (or gasp, your program office heaven forbid!) will likely find a mess. Give it time – the agile butterfly is going to take at least a year.

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