This morning I was listening to a Planet Money podcast about the US Federal Reserve’s battle with inflation in the ’70s. The Federal Reserve chairman, then Paul Volcker, made a series of changes to halt high inflation (over 10%) that should have worked – in theory – but in practice, no one believed that they would - so they didn’t. Why? Because employers, employees and consumers alike maintained their spending and budget habits that fed into the inflationary cycle. Employees demanded pay rises, employers obliged and consumers bought goods sooner rather than later to avoid price increases – more money chasing fewer goods which leads to inflation. It sounds like the London housing market but let’s leave that discussion for another day.
Change is often difficult because it involves breaking old habits, uncovering information and embracing risk. It also needs the basic conviction that another way is possible.
I became a believer in a lean way of working after attending the ThoughtWorks seminars in London and reading about the Toyota Production System by Jeffrey Licker. Agile describes a way of working that emphasises solving problems end-to-end, makes quality a group responsibility and empowers each team member to make decisions on how they work.
Making change happen will face challenges but they are not insurmountable. Training takes time and persistence, pressure can be deflected, and confusion can be illuminated but without the conviction to follow through on our aspirations we crush our hopes prematurely and tempt irrelevance.
Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced
-- James Baldwin