Test Driven Organizational Change

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Let’s just say I was testing the bounds of society. I was just curious. –Jim Morrison (1943 – 1971)

I’ve been contemplating experimenting with some change, but I’m not really sure what is going to work and what won’t. In some ways that dilemma mirrors my coding style. Often when I embark on a project, I’m not entirely clear whether or not what I’m doing will work or not. I mean, I think it will work…but I’m really not absolutely positive. When I code…stuff happens.

I guess I could be accused of rushing into coding without taking care to fully think the problem through. But when I’m swept up in the moment, I want to run with the momentum I have. Call me impulsive. I admire others who have the self discipline to worry through the analysis before they get started, but that’s just not me.

That’s why Test Driven Development has been such a lifesaver for me. It forces me to think about what I’m trying to accomplish before I write the code. It gives my approach a little rudimentary discipline, rather than simply stampeding into the code. Moo.

The question is, can I use TDD to help with organizational change? What would that look like? In order to do TDD we have to start by asking ourselves what the expected outcome of this process or change is. In terms of team performance, that might mean a change among many different metrics (i.e. velocity, throughput, etc.). So first you set up the test: what would the desired outcome of the change be? More software? Happiness? Safety? Openness? Joy? Perhaps it is the absence of something?

Example Change: I want to bring more openness to new ideas to our work.

Next, what are the things that would indicate success? A change in the number of releases? A subjective rating of mood? Maybe a count of unsolicited ideas? Keeping a resistance index (a count of protests per session)? A count of positive/supportive statements. Basically we are looking for some kind of measure that might give us an indication that we are passing our test.

Example Test #1: I will count new ideas that come up in team meetings on a daily basis – If the count is greater than 10, then the test passes

 

Wacky thought: would it be possible to measure all behavior change in relation to changes in code? How would a subjective notion like enhanced social safety within the team be reflected in the code base? Whoa…I think I just bent something important in my head when I bumped into that last thought.

Of course, just like for code, you probably wouldn’t write just one test for any given change. Like code, change is complex, so we are going to be well advised to create multiple tests for any given single proposed effort.

Example Test #2: I will count the number of new ideas that get shot down daily – if the count is less than 3, then the test passes

Great, now we have some tests, what next? Well in TDD we run the tests first and verify that they all fail. Yes, Martha, all the tests are red. Good! Now, and only now are we ready to create change.

Example Test Run: Day one, test 1: result is 4 new ideas – test fails. test 2: the result is 4 – test fails. We are red.

So we put our change initiative into place. But wait – we must keep in mind rule #1 of test driven development: do only the very simplest thing to pass the test. What does that mean? Well if you want people to be happy, what’s the very simplest thing we could do? Would you go to HR and initiate some sort of peer reward system complete with executive buy-in and a roll out program with sensitivity training? Or…would you make a point each day of telling someone how much you genuinely appreciate working with them? Remember, rule #1: KEEP IT SIMPLE!

Example Change: Add a new rule to the team agreement – you can’t say “no” to a new idea.

Then we run the tests again. Where do we fail? Where do we pass? Now we might have some interesting information!

So, before I forget, there is one last thing we should do: refactor. Now we need to go back and take a look at those tests and see if we can improve them. We also look for ways to improve the changes we made. Maybe instead of telling people how much you appreciate them, you give them a hug instead.

Then just like in TDD, we go back to #1 and repeat.

Of course we can’t call this Test Driven Development because that name is already taken. Maybe we could call it Test Driven Change? TDC…Yeah, that could work. Let’s call it Test Driven Change – if I can get three people to do it, then we’ll call it a movement!

 

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