Got Change? Spike It To The Right

ChangeTransitions are hard, even when they are sought after, of your own volition.

One day you are cruising along, the master of your domain. The next you are back at square one; a novice, navigating uncharted territory.

What makes transitions challenging, is not the change itself so much as the uncertainty and ambiguity that accompany it.

It all makes sense when you understand what’s happening to your brain during this process.

Your brain habitually forms maps of the information that it collects. That 1.5 kg brain of yours is equipped with its very own search engine primed to seek patterns.

When you achieve mastery at something, it means that your brain has created a pathway to accomplish that task swiftly – be it coding a complex algorithm or pitching a really fastball.

Practice does make perfect. What starts out as a consciously rehearsed habit or skill, with diligent repetition, evolves into effortless mastery.

However, during transition, the expectations, the cadence and characteristics of your new situation are all unknowns. Your brain is missing critical data needed to perceive patterns and effectively utilize your expertise. Not only that, uncertainty often leads to impostor syndrome.

What might help you navigate transition more smoothly?

You need to look no further than the Agile paradigm.

Agile accepts the reality of change, aiming for incremental movement through an iterative approach. This makes change less daunting and more quantifiable. The emphasis is on making tangible progress rather than striving for completion or perfection.

Of specific interest are agile activities called spike stories. Spike stories are exploratory tasks that can’t be quantified; where the level of ambiguity far exceeds the amount of known information.

Spike is an interesting metaphor that originates from rock climbing. A climber periodically stops to drive a spike into the rock face. Driving the spike is not actual climbing — it does not move the climber any closer to the top — but rather, it enables future climbing.

Spikes serve as anchors, allowing for safe exploration of the terrain. They go a long way towards diminishing uncertainty and reducing risk.

What might you take away from agile and spike stories?

First of all you can break your transition plan down into smaller manageable chunks. Secondly, you can plan to drive some spikes, building a trail of anchors leading you from the past to the future.

This is where right brain tools such as metaphors, visualization and appreciative inquiry are extremely powerful. They help you map and assess the new terrain through the lens of strengths and abilities that you have already mastered.

By harnessing the power of your right brain, you too can navigate transition with confidence and grace.

All you need to do is spike it to the right.

What techniques or resources have you relied upon to ensure a successful transition in your work or your life?

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