Too busy to change: Experiment to find upsides, limit the downsides

OK so you’ve learned something new; you want to start doing it for real. How do you find the time?

Orson Scott Card said that

“The essence of training is to allow error without consequence.”

Learning stuff is great, but it’s only useful if we can put it into action. Unfortunately, we can’t rehearse the relevant skills in isolation. There is no training arena to test out project management systems, so we have to blend our training with our work.

Agile Vs Waterfall.

We have to find a way to learn and try things out while doing “real work”. We must look for options that have an upside, but find a way to control the downsides. If we can’t control the consequences, then we will be too afraid of making errors to try anything new. And the longer that goes on, the more risk averse we become and the easier it is to say “it’s worked up until now, why change?”

Also: manage upwards; get them to buy you some time and help you control downsides; the payoffs will come.

Here’s a few suggestions, all rather obvious by now:

  • Book some time. Pick a spot in your diary and block some time every week.
  • Start small. Pick something isolated, where you can take a risk. And deliberately take a risk and do something new.
  • Don’t delay. Waiting for the right moment is probably not a good idea, it’s unlikely to ever come along. OK yes, don’t pick an absolute crisis either, but everything is relative; most of our work crises are “first-world problems”
  • Learn with others, learning can be social experience. If you are learning together you can reinforce each other’s commitment to try new things
  • Learn from others on the same path if you have to do all the experiments yourself, you’ll age to death before you figure it out. Share experiences. It’s hard to know how much their experiences apply, of course.
  • Don’t stop many small experiments is better than one big change. Don’t settle for just trying something new once.

Finally

Be patient. Maybe the new thing won’t work first time? That doesn’t mean that it won’t ever work, or that doing new things is a waste of time. Share your experiences with your peers, be honest with your manager and your team about the fact you tried something and it didn’t quite work. Ask for forgiveness, rinse and repeat.

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