What got you here won’t get you there

The famous quote that is the title of this post typically refers to how an individual’s approach needs to change as they move into management and then executive leadership. I like to think of it in a broader context. In a business where the environment is constantly changing, the approaches that were successful in the past are often less effective in the new, evolving work. Unfortunately, just like newly minted managers trying to succeed by doing everyone’s work for them, or new execs struggling to get out of tactics and into strategy, we often find it difficult to break our habits, especially when those habits have yielded success in the old context.

The same applies to teams attempting to break old habits. When teams try to adopt a new approach, like agile, or a framework, like scrum or Kanban, they often find themselves falling back into old habits shortly after the afterglow of training wears off.

Scrum defines a role to counteract this problem, that of the scrum master. In scrum, the scrum master helps the team be aware of situations where they are falling into old habits. They help the team recognize the possible consequences of that habit, and help them figure out new habits that will get them where they need to be.

Breaking old habits is really simple: Be aware of the habit, recognize a new possibility, then practice! Just like scrum, that simple approach is really difficult to do well. Having a defined role to help the team continually update their habits to more effectively address the current situation is extremely helpful. When we are choosing who should act as a scrum master, we should therefore keep in mind that this role is all about change management.

Scrum masters, how are you helping your team recognize that “what got them here won’t get them there”? What new habits are you helping them form?

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