Making Change Happen
How do we make change happen?
First, this is an interesting and somewhat difficult problem.
No one knows the complete answer. Change does happen, and people ascribe causes to why the change happens (or does not happen). The facts are very messy so it is hard to be sure, and hard to know if we are sometimes lying to ourselves.
Still change does happen.
Second, some people seem to be better at making it happen than others.
Why is this topic interesting to you? (you might be asking yourself)
Well, I suggest it could change your job and your career for the better dramatically. And, after learning and trying to make change, if change does not happen, I will suggest some of you move to a different company.
I will suggest, if you make change happen, you can dramatically affect the lives of people you care about. Change them a lot. Double their happiness, send up their productivity by 200%, 300%, 600%. Make customers 100% more satisfied. Destroy the competition.
So, I hope you are attentive to this subject.
A few observations.
1. Agile values, principles and practices, if adopted well and executed professionally, can provide tremendous results.
I think agile, even if done unprofessionally or partially, can provide notable results (+20%).
If done well, agile can have a tremendous impact (+500% or more). From the base line of the team you are working with, the benefits probably extend higher. I don’t know if people can get a Team to keep going much higher (e.g., higher than 10x better).
Today, I will not try to justify that statement, but it is an assumption that is key.
2. For any large group of people, the thought processes associated with agile are not the normal culture.
It may be that some individuals understand agile almost completely, naturally and intuitively with a minimal mixture of waterfall thinking or culture.
It is my belief that almost every company has a strong mixture of ‘old style’ thinking that retards, degrades or diminishes success with agile. Thus, we need a cultural shift, a change in thinking.
3. It is hard to get the group culture to change.
It is easy to change one or two people some, and introduce them to new ideas.
But it is very hard to change a department’s culture.
And even harder to change the company’s culture.
Still, at least in small groups, we can alter the immediate culture enough to adopt agile initially and often to have that adoption become better over time.
4. The Change never ends.
I am less sure of this one, but I think it is always true.
Do not be gulled into feeling: “Oh, we have changed to agile and no more change is needed.”
First, your group probably is not really doing agile well, nor as well as it can.
Second, by definition, Scrum means you should be getting better each Sprint, by removing impediments.
Third, that ‘old style thinking’ starts to come back. People forget why they started to do agile, or why agile works, and this starts to degrade the lean-agile implementation. Results worsen.
So, we must be continually changing in a forward direction, and watch out for retrograde movements in the culture. Then fix them.
Now, what do we do, to get this all to happen?
My 4 favorite things to talk about in this area are:
1. Just do it!
By this I mean, start doing Scrum, and do Scrum well. Add things to Scrum, but come back and do it well. And by doing Scrum, the whole culture starts to develop.
It is not enough, by itself, but if you understand and are explaining the success of Scrum (all the time), it starts to have a significant impact.
2. Understand John Kotter’s ideas
Kotter has an 8-step program for change. These are the steps:
- Create a sense of urgency
- Build a guiding coalition
- Form a strategic vision and initiatives
- Enlist a volunteer army
- Enable action by removing barriers
- Generate short term wins
- Sustain acceleration
- Institute change (that is, put it into the structure of the org)
These ideas are worth looking into. Read Kotter’s books. Many of his articles are available online.
The biggest problem is step 1.
3. Use Fearless Change
Mary Lynn Manns and Linda Rising wrote a great book about change, called Fearless Change. I strongly recommend the book. And they have a new edition, called More Fearless Change.
The main part of the first book describes 48 patterns you can use to change your group (your set of people).
Use those patterns regularly. Work on one pattern per day. Come close to implementing one pattern per day (fully completing one per day).
This will cause small changes to happen, and will, slowly, change the culture.
4. Use Open Agile Adoption
Daniel Mezick has a wonderful set of ideas around Open Agile Adoption.
In summary: do not let the people feel forced to adopt agile. They are free knowledge workers. You can explain it to them (or hire a trainer to train them on it, etc.).
Give them a vision, something like: “Over the next year, we want to become Agile, to see if that gives us some real business benefits.”
Invite ‘the people’ to join in, and define the details of the change. Argue about it. The people also includes the agile advocates.
Use Open Space events periodically (every 2-3 months?) to define chapters of change (the next 2-3 months). Enable people to self-organize on which parts of the change should be addressed now.
You will notice that these ideas invoke several of Kotter’s ‘steps’.
You will notice that the Open Space events will address both the practical as well as the ‘cultural’ aspects of change.
Too long for today, so I will stop.