Interview with Linda Rising

Being fearless is similar to being Agile, says Linda Rising – an author, speaker and an independent consultant. Our conversation began with discussing her experience in varied field, primary challenges to make change happen and how can change be fearless in the world of uncertainties.

In the second part of interview, she explained effectiveness of Agile meetings, solutions to make decisions in less time and her secret of being successful.

Let us take you through our discussion;

Q1. How does your experience in different fields of university teaching and software development help each other?

Linda: I believe a variety of educational and work experiences informs what anyone does. As humans, we have a tendency to narrow our focus. Anything that can help us lift our heads and look around and see other points of view will help us do a better job of solving problems and making better decisions.

Q2. What are three biggest challenges to make change happen? How can they be addressed without hitting on people’s motivation?

Linda: The three biggest challenges we face are our own beliefs.

(1) We believe that people are rational decision makers, when all the evidence from behavioral economics shows that we are not. If we fail to consider how people feel about change and only rely on facts to convince, we will fail.

(2) We believe that our ideas are “good” and that “goodness will win in the end.” We have only to look at the failure throughout history of many great and “good” ideas to know that this is not true. Goodness is a relative term. People in our organizations can see even the best idea as threatening. Again, failure to consider other points of view and the fears others have, even of good ideas, will get in our way.

(3) Regarding resistors as stupid or bad and thus ignoring them will hinder our change efforts. The work of E. M. Rogers shows that a predictable population of adoption curve will describe the initial results of a innovation in any domain. Everything from agricultural ideas to technological break-throughs will cause some to be happy and others to resist. The belief that we in any environment will all react in the same way is asking for trouble. Some people will always love new ideas — let them experiment. Others will always be afraid — let them hang on to the benefits of the status quo to ensure they are not forgotten. Get the best from all your people. That’s the way progress is made.

Q3. People resist change. One of your books is titled ‘Fearless Change’. How can change be fearless with so many uncertainties attached to it?

Linda: Life is full of uncertainties. It has always been a struggle to move forward. The Innovators and Early Adopters have always led the way and the Late Majority and Laggards have resisted. This population of adoption has enabled our survival as a species. Imagine our stone age ancestors uncovering some new variety of fruit. Should everyone eat it immediately? We were typically hungry all the time. The answer is “No.” Let the adventuresome try it. The others will follow along as they are comfortable. Some will never eat it. This is all good. This means survival. This is still with us today. We should embrace it and use it.

Q4. Meetings are hated by many. What is your take on Agile Meetings and its frequency? Please provide 3 quick tips on how to avoid it turning into a time sink for organizations.

Linda: More meetings should be stand-up. Evidence shows that this will not only shorten the meetings, it changes the dynamic. The powerful loud guy who sits at the end will no longer dominate. When people stand and move around, the process becomes more democratic and more inclusive and more fun. More organizations should try it — not just for the daily stand-up.

Q5. How can a Product Champion and a Product Owner be differentiated? According to you, what characteristics a Product Champion should posses?

Linda: This depends on the organization and the product. There are small organizations with small products who only need one role. There are large organizations with complex products who need many people to play many roles related to product ownership. The question to ask is, “Who will answer the various questions from development?” That answer will determine the number and kind of roles.

Q6. Decision making on time is of paramount importance for any business to grow. Is there any solution to take decisions in less time.

Linda: Involve as many others as possible who take diverse points of view and hear from them independently.

Q7. Where do you see Agile Community heading today?

Linda: We are on the road. Agile today is not what agile was 10 years ago. That is a good thing.

Q8. If you have reveal one secret of being successful to our readers, what it would be?

Linda: Keep learning. Stay open. Listen, listen, listen. These are really all one thing.



Linda Rising is an independent consultant who lives in Nashville, Tennessee. She has authored four books and numerous articles and is an internationally known presenter on topics related to patterns, retrospectives, influence strategies, Agile development, and the change process.

With a Ph.D. from Arizona State University in the field of object-based design metrics, Linda’s background includes university teaching and software development in a number of different domains.

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