Posts Tagged With: Change management

Maintain a sense of change urgency through agility

According to John Kotter’s model for leading change, the first step to overcoming inertia requires us to instill a sense of true urgency in those we need to support, implement and sustain the change. While it is ideal if this urgency is tied to What’s In It For Me, at a minimum, we all want proof that committing our time and political influence to a particular initiative at this very moment is cheaper than the cost of doing nothing.

But the steps in Kotter’s model, like PMBOK processes, are not to be followed in a purely sequential manner. 

Significant organization transformations usually require a year or more to become “the new normal” and we are only fooling ourselves if we assume that those stakeholders who were focused and motivated to champion our initiative in its early days will continue to remain so for the long haul. Executives and mid-level managers are constantly juggling competing priorities and as long as it appears that a change initiative is not on fire, their attention spans are likely to be shorter than that of a goldfish.

As such, we need to iterate back to instilling that sense of true urgency at regular intervals. The specific cadence varies based on the complexity and duration of a transformation. Fan the flames too rarely and the spark will be extinguished. Do it too often and you’ll be treated like the boy who cried “Wolf!”.

But is reminding stakeholders that they need to support us enough to gain this support? Maintaining focus requires quid pro quo otherwise we are likely to hear “What have you done for me lately?” 

This is why regardless of the nature of a transformation we need to inject agility into its delivery. We can follow adapted versions of key Manifesto principles such as:

  • Our highest priority is to satisfy our stakeholders through early and continuous delivery of business value
  • Deliver business value frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale
  • At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to implement change more effectively, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly
  • Change champions and the team must work together frequently throughout the transformation

Newton’s first law: An object at rest remains at rest, or if in motion, remains in motion at a constant velocity unless acted on by a net external force.



Categories: Agile, Facilitating Organization Change | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

How do we encourage organizational adoption of an agile mindset?

Changing mindset is all the rage in the agile community.

Years of failed transformations which started with practice, methodology or tooling changes are convincing many that changing the hearts and minds of all stakeholders involved in value delivery provides a more safer road to organizational agility.

But how do we change people’s minds? We aren’t trying to change what they do as that results in superficial agility, we want to change how they think about what they do.

Attending a course is not the answer. As Morpheus states about The Matrix: Unfortunately, no one can be…told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a red pill that could flip that switch in our heads and turn us into inspiring, empowering, servant-leadership aligned, waste-exterminating leaders?

The Scrum Guide states that a key responsibility of a Scrum Master is “Leading and coaching the organization in its Scrum adoption and surely a key element of that centers around shifting mindset. Realistically, when teams are struggling to embrace agility, the majority of a Scrum Master‘s efforts are spent coaching them. This is the rationale behind organizations investing in coaching support outside agile teams. But even there, many agile coaches focus their efforts on evolving Scrum Master capabilities or at best working with a few key stakeholders surrounding the project or product release.

But a fish rots from its head.

To institutionalize agility, not just from a delivery perspective, but with regards to portfolio investment making, resource allocation, and operations, mindset change is needed from the top down which means that coaching services should also be targeted at multiple levels of the organization. Having executive leaders who truly walk the agile talk increases the likelihood of senior and mid-level managers doing the same. While it is common for staff to pick up bad habits from their managers, the same holds true for positive behaviors.

How much coaching assistance and time is required to realize a sustainable level of mindset change?

As usual, it depends. Factors such as organization size, current culture and behaviors, external forces, competing priorities and overall sense of urgency will all influence the level and duration of the investment in coaching. However, just as team-level coaching should start heavy and reduce over time as our teams get better at learning to fish, executive and mid-level management coaching should do the same. At some point, just as with delivery teams, leadership teams need to become self-managing and self-disciplined.

Until someone invents a red pill (or more likely, a chip), the best alternative we have is coaching coupled with the power of imitation. 




Categories: Agile, Facilitating Organization Change | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Three key ingredients motivating personal change

Over lunch today I enjoyed a good conversation with a couple of ex-colleagues who are facing a challenging yet not very uncommon situation at work. The company they work for has ambitious growth plans and the practices and behaviors which helped their staff get the company to where it is today will not sustainably support the anticipated growth. My friends have previously worked for more mature organizations and can clearly visualize and articulate what needs to be done to get their company to this next level but are encountering resistance from long-time staff who are reluctant to change.

This discussion made me revisit my own views on the critical ingredients which motivate individuals to change their behavior.

The two most popular inputs I’ve run across are a true sense of urgency (as per John P. Kotter) and understanding how the change will personally benefit the individual (a.k.a. “What’s in it for me?”).

But is that sufficient?

Is a true sense of urgency a cause or an effect? Knowing that a large predator is hunting me in the forest will instill a true sense of urgency in me but the predator is the cause and not the sense of urgency itself.

And while there’s no doubt that a given change might benefit me, think of the volume of competing changes with which we are bombarded daily. Filtering through these to find the one or two which will provide the highest return is akin to a golfer who is overwhelmed with multiple swing thoughts while standing at the tee.

So it almost feels like there is a missing ingredient to convince someone to change now, even if that change is urgent AND will benefit them.

Perhaps that ingredient is PURPOSE.

If we can tie our change to an individual’s true calling, then that will serve as a powerful accelerator to increase their sense of urgency and to answer the “What’s in it for me?” question in spades.

On a one-on-one basis this is achievable but how do we scale it to a large organization? Surely we can’t be expected to understand the calling of every individual we want to influence? This is where we need to rely on our change champions. Our responsibility is to ensure that we take the time to develop a good understanding of the needs and wants of our champions to light the torch that they will carry on our behalf.

Categories: Facilitating Organization Change | Tags: , | 1 Comment

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