On the development of ideas in a team

(This is a post from my previous blog that I migrated over because I thought it was valuable and it’s a new home for my blog)

Implementing new ideas within a team or an organization is an interesting and challenging process. I am seeing the challenges of this process both at my team at work and in my role as a volunteer in a local youth organization. The context for my team at work is what changes to our tests and testing processes are we going to make to continue improving how and what we test. In regards to the youth group I’m involved with, it is how deeply will we adopt particular programs and processes and how should we plan the program for the youth that we run (including things like funding, length of the plan, parental and youth involvement, etc). Implementing great ideas (like the development of great software really) can be fraught with challenging details that can easily derail even the best of ideas. At work, for example, we just finished up a major release and are beginning to discuss/reflect on ways that we can improve our process for the future. One of the challenges I am finding is that I have ideas about what I would like to change, but the actual way in which the change is implemented in some ways seems like a harder challenge to crack. What processes are going to be created to actually effect the changes envisioned, how committed is the team to the change, do they capture the big picture vision of why this is being done and what the change is hoping to accomplish. These are important, but potentially challenging details. It takes both a will and good implementation to overcome the sheer inertia of how a team (or an individual) is accustomed to working. Great ideas, implemented or adopted poorly, are as likely to fail as poor ideas that are implemented poorly.

One particular challenge is how ideas are spread and adopted throughout a team or organization. Almost inevitably, in a team of any size, there will be some differences in opinions about particular ideas or changes. How these differences are addressed and resolved play a huge part in how well ideas and changes are spread and implemented and often times this part is just incredibly hard and slow. I’m left wondering how can teams appreciate, celebrate even, the differences in opinions and talents while still being capable of adapting and changing. This can be particularly difficult when some team members feel like the status quo is acceptable and feel no motivation to change.

That is the question I’m left pondering these days. How can I effectuate change I feel is necessary? I wouldn’t consider myself a “boat-rocker” by nature. I’m not particular fond of conflict and promoting change almost inevitably invites conflict or friction. Is some conflict inevitable in the development of the ideas? My experience leads me to believe that yes, it is inevitable. The greater the size, the more likely and diverse the conflict will probably be. So the companion question is, how can we manage conflict to help improve an idea without poisoning the relationships and morale that is necessary to make the changes or ideas successful.

I have more questions than answers at this point, both in regards to my youth group involvement and my team at work, but I felt like I needed to capture some of my thinking. We’ll see where things continue to develop. I have lots more thinking to do, but these general ideas seem clear for me as I try to move forward:

Favor action

People are as important as ideas

Embrace flexibility and experimentation with quick feedback loops (Are we asking ourselves frequently what experiments are we running this week, this sprint, this month, this year?)

Ask yourself implementation questions first, things like (What would this look like? What would other team members need to be successful? What conflicts to process or people might occur?)

Here are some quotes that seem especially relevant (though I would encourage viewing all of the quotes from the URL that I sourced the following two from, they are terrific!):

Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.
Peter Drucker

Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one’s thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/action.html#X7QgkCLxh7YKvzlz.99

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