Agile Transformation: It’s an Emotional Thing!

Great People = Great Results!  I read it on the banner of the company I work for everyday as I proceed down the walkway into the building.  People are the most important ingredient in the recipe for your organization’s success and people are emotional beings.

If your company is on its Agile transformation journey, there will inevitably be change and change evokes emotion.  Among the possible emotional catalysts are adopting new processes, taking on new roles, reorganizing, forming new teams and the list goes on.  With this change will come many emotions and related actions.

A frustrated person might constantly get angry and fly off the handle at their colleagues.  Their manager may then tell them, “You really have to suppress your frustration”.  The person then concentrates on suppressing their frustration.  They tell themselves, “Calm down – you’re making too much of this – don’t become frustrated”.

Studies have proven that suppressing thoughts only results in amplifying the thought.  Remember the exercise “whatever you do – do not think of a pink elephant”.  The more you try not to think of the pink elephant, the more you do.  So if we ask someone to suppress their frustration then they will most likely become even more frustrated or even angry.

Instead, Harvard scholars say we need to recognize our emotions, but don’t let them hook us.  We should recognize the emotion as a thought and then zoom up above it, analyze it from this high level and ask ourselves why we feel that way.  By taking the time to identify that our frustration may be signaling an important needed action we can then take that action based on our values and not based on our emotion.

If your boss provides you with negative feedback, this will most likely evoke emotion.  If you get hooked by your emotion then you may jump to the conclusion “My boss has no faith in me”.  Instead, it is better to zoom up above the emotion and ask ourselves which of our values will we use to deal with the trying situation. We can speak to our boss with our values of truth, honesty and transparency to better understand their viewpoint and discuss it.

Again, we should listen to our emotions, but base action on our values.  Our emotions change like the wind, but our values are steady and can be leveraged all the time.


  1. Phil, great topic and very good advice,Thanks.
    Organizational Change brings in both positive and negative emotions. When I read Jack Welch technique I found one of the technique to build more energy in organization is bring in change. So there will be people who are excited about new changes and leverage that energy to accomplish your goal. At the same time there will be negative emotion for some folks. I think it is great advice to recognize the negative emotion… So we need to recognize the emotion (definitely not try to suppress it) and observe the emotion, see how body/mind is reacting to the emotion. This will slowly reduce he negative emotion. At the same time its difficult to separate yourself from emotions and observe yourself as you might be deep into it, so taking break and getting away from the environment that you are in and give some rational thought will help as well. Or some mental exercise like meditation is great way to release negative emotion. I think another way we can try to avoid frustration is align/communicate the goal/objective of the new changes to all participants clearly and show them value of how the new change is going to achieve that. Most of the people I have seen who are frustrated are the ones that do not believe new change will help them achieve the goal. So we might have to clearly lay down the plan how new change is going to help us achieve our goal and communicate same to affected people. And that will actually help leaders to convince themselves as well if this new change is really going to achieve the goal or its just a bandwagon we want to be in???


  2. Hi Phil. Great words of wisdom. I lived this in a previous company… everything was going great and then something happened that turned the tide and things were not going well for reasons beyond my control, I was getting frustrated, sought other employment but no doors were opened. With that I had to go back to the Creator of my values and get an “adjustment”. Within a few months everything had done a 180 and I was given an award for superior performance. Thanks Phil for the reminder to us all!


  3. I used the emotion of frustration as an example in the post, but I don’t want to mislead people. A scenario can be made for other emotions also. You can sometimes be so excited about something that you just charge off on your own in ten different crazy directions. In this instance, it is great to be excited and passionate about something, but again you should base your actions on your values and not on the emotion. If values of yours are transparency and communication then this is what you should embrace as you act.


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