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Why Change?

By Steve Jones,

I was reading Change is Hard from Jeff Hackert and I started to think about the ways in which I both change and resist change. I then started to think about the ways in which I ask people to change what they're doing. I do this both at work and in life, with mixed levels of success. The one thing the article got me to think about was the idea that in asking someone to change, I'm implying they are doing something poorly, or wrong, already.

In some cases, that's true. When I coach volleyball, I am often telling someone they are not practicing a technique correctly, and they need to change. The trick here is showing them what they are actually doing, since many of us don't realize when we are moving our body incorrectly. We think we're doing what we were told, and often it's only with video evidence do we realize what we're doing wrong. Once we do, it becomes easier to make corrections.

In technology, this is often more nebulous. There isn't often a set way that we should write code. Requirements vary, our schemas and data differ, and we almost always have disparate (and often not enough) indexes. Asking someone to change could very well mean asking them to admit they built something incorrectly. Sometimes we may do that, but often we have confidence in our work. Asking someone else to change how they build or develop software can be hard.

What can even be harder is getting management to change. We often feel pressure from management, who usually see our systems working well enough. While we may see sub-optimal performance, they see business getting completed. While we see stress and long hours, they see work getting done at the same cost. Changing priorities to improve our applications often becomes secondary when potential new features and functions exist. Telling management they're wrong is not only difficult, it's often fruitless.

Change is hard. Most humans like the status quo to continue indefinitely, even when we know that things can improve with some alteration in our routine. Inspiring others to join in and invest for the future is a skill. It's one that I'd encourage you to develop, both with peers and management.

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