Continuous disruption

A lot of discussion I’ve been having these last few weeks is about disruption. In Agile we strive for continuous improvement. But what happens to the process, the people when you’re in that phase where you just eat-sleep-repeat your day, with mind-numbingly accuracy? How are you improving anything if you are doing the same thing day in, day out?

The basics on continuous improvement

“How does this work? Let’s start out with the basics:

  1. In Steady State we are not improving, but we may be using newly improved capacities
  2. With Disruption we experience a change in the equilibrium. We experience a stressor from an internal or external source
  3. The first response is Pain
  4. Pain reveals information. And we Learn
  5. Learning leads to potential Improvements
  6. We reach a local optima and move to a Steady State” 


Disruption starts with introducing something new. Perhaps a framework is being introduced ‘Guys we’re doing Scrum now’ or ‘Management wants us to work in waves’. Stuff forced upon you by those whom you hardly ever see decent from that ivory tower. Or perhaps smaller, more natural changes. A new team member is being introduced, or colleagues are leaving the company. Those changes also happen right.

Whatever the situation is the point is; whenever there is something new you experience disruption. That has a negative ring to it doesn’t it? When change is introduced our programmed minds immediately resist said change. It’s an impulse. It’s our nature. Change is uncertainty. And uncertainty must be avoided. So there might be fallback. Or the rise of a resistance. A revolt might take place.

Ok calm down Sabine. But you get the point. That’s a tough phase. Unhappy hearts. Uncertain minds.

Now we all realize that change can be good. I’ve talked about that here often. And we all know all the models that explain how some people are quick to adopt change and some people take some more time.

Problems create solutions

But the discussions I’ve been having these weeks are related to the question that if, in that uncomfortable phase after a change, is where Agile might actually be at its best. Because problems, which probably have been lingering beneath the surface for far too long, are floating up and finally discussed. There are emotions, anger, sadness, frustration. And there are problems, incompatibly issues, process improvements, delivery incapability’s. And we are now discovering all of them. Which I think is great! Sure we might not have a direct solution for everything but at least issues are now out in the open. Nothing scarier than a beast hiding in the dark right.

For me, a Scrum Master should never be with the Team for longer than a year. Because however good the Scrum Master. He or she will eventually go into eat-sleep-repeat mode. And what every Team needs is continuous disruption! Someone who offers new insight, coaches different aspects, someone who challenges you on a different level.

Our job as Scrum Master, as Agile Coach, is too promptly and correctly identify what phase the people, the Team is at and to know what type of disruption is appropriate to introduce at what time. We are there to facilitate learning, improving, but also identifying the pain that sometimes comes with disruption. We are there to push ahead. To push you, just a little, out of your comfort zone. To push the Team to a new level. Because continuous disruption goes hand in hand with continuous improvement. And as Scrum Master, Agile Coaches we facilitate improvement!

How to incorporate small, positive changes

So challenge yourself this week and start introducing disruptions in your routine. Order something else for lunch, take a different route during your walk. And then mix up your Retrospective by inviting a Scrum Master from another Team to facilitate, or even retro together with another team. Go outside for your next ceremony. Decide to all present your colleague’s increment during next Review. Or let Stakeholders vote on improvements using Kahoot during said Review.

Nothing is too crazy. Disruption wakes you from your eat-sleep-repeat routine. It sparks conversation. And it will reveal issues so that you can do why we are doing Agile in the first place: to continuously improve. So go and disrupt the shit out of it!

Without disruption we risk Death

“We have four primary loops with three not-so-ideal end states:

  1. Disruption and Pain predominate when we first encounter the stressor. If the stressor is large, then it leads to Death. The disruption and pain was too great
  2. If we are in Pain, we may continue to Learn. But if we can’t translate that into Improvements then we will eventually reach Death. We are stuck in a downward spiral not being able to apply our learning.
  3. When we combine Learning with Improvement we have a virtuous cycle that lets us translate disruption driven information into improvements. Eventually we’ll reach a local optima
  4. Finally, in the Steady State loop we can simply “ride it out” for some period of time. Without further disruption we risk descending into a cycle of complacency, and finally Death.”

Please do read the article. It’s brilliant!