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Sometimes Change Isn't Easy...Until It's Not an Option

With the advent of the global pandemic, our society has had to adapt to massive change. The shelter in place orders have forced many of us to figure out how to work from home. And that's probably the least of the significant change. It's funny how just a few short months ago, if you had asked folks if they could work from home the answer would have been a very firm, "No." That sort of change just couldn't be conceived of...until they had no choice.

Certainly, the work from home option is by no means anything new. Many of us have been doing it for years, if not decades. The technology is well established, so there's really no technical reason blocking that sort of move. Instead, I think it was largely a challenge of mindset and mental models. There were a variety at play:

  1. Management that didn't trust their employees to work a full day without being at the office and under their watchful eye. "We all know that people will slack off if they work from home."

  2. Working from home can be awkward if the environment isn't conducive to it. Interruptions from kids, deliverymen, and the temptations of the refrigerator can all conspire to make it a challenge.

  3. Most agile adherents (trainers, coaches) absolutely refused to acknowledge that distributed work could be done effectively under any circumstances. Face to Face is best, so we won't put any energy into understanding distributed work.

All of these biases and more contributed to our avoidance of change. The interesting thing is that once the change became mandatory, these models were dismissed like a dandelion under a lawn mower. Bam! Problem solved. Model changed. Hey, if it means staying employed, then distributed work is OK with me!

Now I know that there are some holdouts. There are people who refuse to acknowledge that distributed working, or training, of any kind can be effective. Perhaps those folks are just going to try and wait out the pandemic and then go back to preaching the gospel of face-to-face interactions. I don't think they're wrong, face-to-face communication is the best. But remote interaction is the new "normal" now. This old mindset won't go away, but it may become a minority. The world isn't going to be the same after this pandemic. Those who adapt to the new reality of distributed, virtual working environments will be successful, and those who don't will struggle. We can't put the genie back in the bottle.

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