Agile starts with and thrives on learning. Teams are often introduced to agile frameworks like scrum in training classes, and they adopt practices over time. The team is learning as a group, and we want to ignite a passion for learning in the individual team members. Each team member will be going through change at some point in the agile journey—they will probably experience change multiple times rather than as a single occurrence—and a self-motivated interest in learning can facilitate change. A person going through change is like a trapeze artist: you have to risk letting go of the bar and allow yourself to be suspended in space as you try something new. And then, with relief and excitement, you find yourself able to grab onto a new bar—you have made the change! It can be scary to take the leap for change, and a safety net might not always be visible.
Getting comfortable with change is hard, and as I see it, change and learning go hand in hand. Change might sound scary while learning seems safer. An agile team “reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjustsits behavior accordingly.” The team identifies changes that can be made and tries them; it learns new ways of working, new technologies, new techniques to deliver high quality products… change and learning are continuous. The team culture includes learning. When learning ceases, the ability to adapt to change decreases. Teams become stuck in their ways, conflict increases, and complacency settles in. Don't let your rituals become ruts. Agile teams do not arrive at a destination; the goal is not to improve to a point of maturity or high performance and then maintain the status quo. In the words of Flannery O’Connor:
Accepting oneself does not preclude an attempt to become better.
As an agile coach and consultant, I am often brought in to organizations to jump-start and facilitate change. I look for signs of learning in the organization to design the engagement and evaluate success. If people in the organization are open to learning, then anything is possible. I can provide training, mentoring, and coaching to incite positive change. In the end, I hope people realize that success is not in what they know, but in their capacity to learn.