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Finding Your Style

Each of these strategies has its place. Since people have very different appetites for change, a team may not even agree on which strategy there are using. One man's toe dipping is another man's cannonball. Here are some questions to help you find a style and pace of change that will meet your needs. Taking the time to think about and discuss these issues will smooth your transition.

  • How fast does the team need to see results?
  • How dramatic do those results need to be?
  • How much does the organization have to spend on outside help?
  • How strong are the relationships within the team and between the team and the rest of the organization?

Regardless of the style you choose, beware of the changing/changing back phenomenon. Any time you make a change, it puts a strain on surrounding people, resources, and organizations related to that change. It takes awareness and persistence to stick with a change and follow through on its consequences until the new behavior becomes habit in spite of pressure from those around you to make their lives "easier" by changing back.

An antidote to changing back is being accountable to a supportive community. If the whole team decides that they are going to integrate their changes every hour and how often people integrate is public knowledge, it's much easier to keep integrating often even if it feels uncomfortable or seems inconvenient. Even if you are the only one making a change you will find it easier if you participate in an online community or attend your local area user's group meeting. In time, rhythm replaces strength.

Where you need to go to get support will be very different depending on your position in the organization and where the impetus for change began. In the early days of XP, almost all those wanting to apply it were programmers out to improve their own work. Project managers and customers had little motivation to change their style of work until the programmers had demonstrated improvement. In this case, programmers had to get started with the parts of XP that were purely technical: test-first programming, pair programming, continuous integration, incremental design.

If you are a programmer wanting support for changing your style of work, show why the change is good both for you and for those from whom you want support. Share the benefits you know about and what you have learned from others. Get a commitment for a trial. When you have tried the change, report back to your supporters about how it went and what you would like to do next.

Increasingly, it is the business sponsors who are asking for XP because they want to be able to see clearly into their projects, to detect problems early, and to be able to manage the scope of the system as it evolves. The first practices to begin with for customers are those related to planning: weekly and quarterly planning, stories, and slack. To improve on-time deliveries, the technical people on the team will need to begin applying the technical practices, but establishing a shared understanding of the evolving scope of the system can be a big step towards working together.

Some people are in the position of being forced to apply XP. If this describes you, you'll need to decide how you are going to treat XP. You can resist or you can make XP your own. Here is the case for trying XP in spite of external pressure to do so. One of the principles in XP is mutual benefit. As Gandhi said, "Only that solution is just that is in the best interest of all parties." Changing to XP will likely be uncomfortable at times, but it should also serve your interests as well as those of the team and the whole organization. Take advantage of the opportunity to use XP to improve your own work and practice. Take a look at the practices in the appendix. If one of them reminds you of times you've been especially effective at software development, embrace it. Try it out yourself. Find a buddy to try it with. Convince the team to try it early. The result will be a change process that intentionally meets your needs as well, instead of one driven solely by other people's agendas.

Whatever your circumstances; whether you go in fast or slow, whether you make a big splash or just a few ripples, whether you have help or not; XP has something to offer you. Now is the time to get started. Where is your place to start? Find a style of improvement that suits you and start the process today. Software development has just begun to create value in business. These improvements are available to you as soon as you begin applying XP.

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