#SGZA 2015: Fear and Judgement in Agile Adoption

Posted: November 1, 2015 in Team

I recently attended the regional Scrum Gathering for 2015 in Johannesburg. This is a post in a series on the talks that I attended. All posts are based on the sketch-notes that I took in the sessions. 

This was one of the most enlightening talks of the two days for me (enlightening in that I had a new insight). As you can see, even my sketch-note is crammed with un-creative text.


An started the talk with some group feedback on the word ‘judgment’ and its associations. Largely, judgement is associated with negative emotions and often results in fear. Fearful people struggle to think clearly which means people who fear a change will self-limit their vision and possibilities. I went to another session later in the conference where we explored the difference between opinion (facts-based) and judgement (interpretation-based) a little more explicitly, but more on that in a later post.

An facilitated most of the session using a tool that I think would be useful for most change in organisations. The tool starts with identifying ‘change monsters’ – these are things that can create anxiety in the people affected by the change – and include:

  • Uncertainty/unknowns/change from the what we know
  • Fear of failure
  • Loss
  • Culture
  • Complexity

For each “monster”, we unpacked the following questions:

  1. What behaviours would we observe in people who were experiencing that particular monster? For example, people who have a fear of failure may want to micromanage everything.
  2. For each behaviour, how did the “change” (in our example, agile adoption) reinforce or enhance the negative behaviour. This was an interesting concept for me as usually change agents associate only positive things with the change that they are championing, and we do not stop to think about how the change itself increases resistant behaviours. For example, in the case of agile, the lack of clear roles may reinforce behaviours related to people’s fear of loss.
  3. For each reinforcement, identify ways in which you can manage or counteract the behaviour and/or the impact of the change on that behaviour.

An provided us with a long list of ideas for dealing with the ‘change monsters’ – you can refer to my sketch-note for most of them. Think about a change you are or have implemented in your organisation. Which monsters and behaviours did that change enhance?

  1. […] #SGZA 2015: Fear and Judgement in Agile Adoption […]

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