Little by little...

Little by little...

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Stepping Off The Edge

" When you walk to the edge of all the light that you have and take that first step into the darkness of the unknown, you must believe that one of two things will happen…there will be something solid for you to stand upon or you will be taught to fly. "

Patrick Overton

When I first read this quote, I thought of how nervous I was when I became an independent consultant. I left my company of more than 18 years with a 6-month plan and faith that things would work out. It definitely felt like taking a step into the darkness of the unknown...

And then I remembered how I felt on my first agile lingo, new tools, new practices. Everything I had known was disappearing and I was being figuratively pushed into darkness – or at least it felt that way at times.

Some of my teammates must have felt pushed too, because they resisted every step of the way. They clung to their old roles and familiar behaviors. They did not trust that the team had full support, or something to stand on, if we failed. And without support, we retreat to what is comfortable, even if it’s dysfunctional.

Even after we got an agile coach, and reassurance from management, I don’t think they had faith that we could succeed. Their fear of the unknown, of the uncomfortable, kept them grounded in the status quo. They did not want to learn how to fly.

I understood their trepidation. They had been taught that their value was in knowing the answers, not in discovering better questions. So they stopped being curious. They no longer searched for new ideas. They had no time for experiments.

Thankfully, I had a moment of enlightenment early on, something like an ‘aha,’ where it just clicked. I don’t remember what I was doing at that moment, but I knew that I would never go back to the old way. At that moment, I stepped off the edge.

Agile is a curious thing. As a methodology, it provides solid development practices and proven testing techniques, as well as better ways to collaborate with stakeholders and customers to make sure we’re building the right thing. These are solid things to stand upon.

And, when embraced as a mindset, agile creates environments where trust is valued and expected. New ideas are respected and expanded. Learning & discovery are the new status quo. In this way, an agile mindset teaches us to fly to heights not yet imagined.

What about you? What have you resisted? What helped you to step into the darkness of the unknown? 


  1. Hi Diane, great thoughts! How many people were in the IT shop at the company you worked for before you went independent? Thanks for sharing your experience!

    1. There were around 500 (out of nearly 4,500). Hope things are going well for you. Thanks for commenting!