Micro habits for developers to achieve sticky agile transformation

By Sachin Dharmapurikar

Sticky transformations are those where engineering teams adopt productive practices as a habit and need no external influence to go through with them. But engineering transformation requires a change in organizational mindset and a successful transformation requires continuous change. During a transformation exercise, coaches, teams and leadership focus on driving change and transforming ways of working. This blog looks at what this means for organizations.

Behavioral change is hard. To achieve sticky transformations, we must encourage people to make decisions that are in their broad self-interest. The ‘nudge’ theory recognizes this behavioral trait. Richard Thaler won the Nobel for his work on nudging. This theory emphasizes the idea that positive reinforcement aids people in making the right decisions and in turn makes behavioral change easier.

So how does one help drive behavioral change through great choices? That brings us to another best-selling book — Atomic Habits by James Clear. Clear advocates for one percent daily changes to your habits — small enough that there’s little friction. If you persist though, these changes can make you 37 times better by the end of the year. Yes, that’s the math- 3700 percent improvement if you make one percent change every single day for a year. If that gets your attention, then you’ll also be interested in the way he says we form habits.

To borrow from Clear’s recipe, if we are to make habits stick, here’s what we need to do:

All this sounds rather straightforward in writing, but how do you put it into practice when designing your transformation initiatives?

Any transformation requires certain things to be done not just mechanically but using the right method to see visible benefits. For instance, when performing an exercise in the gym, improper form and posture can injure you. The same principle applies to any process, including transformations. You need to get rid of some old habits and form few new ones to be effective.

In my experience, developers can see the benefits of transformation early on if they make a few changes to their ways of working.

Based on the above reference, let’s try to understand the process of reinforcing behaviors with the following examples:

The micro habits mentioned here are easy to develop and will not alter your daily routine. Everyone in the team should promote the dialog of ‘why’ and perform certain actions repeatedly. It will allow you to eliminate the inefficiencies and promote the adoption of processes that suit your team.

Originally published at https://www.thoughtworks.com on July 11th, 2022.

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