Change Management 3.0

Few of us have never felt the desire to change some aspect of the organisation that we work in.  We can often see how things could be improved – whether it’s optimising a process, simplifying decision making or just choosing a better coffee for the kitchen.  And quite often our colleagues agree with us.  But what chance do we lowly minions have against the massive inertia of the organisation?  The answer is very often slim or none.  In which case it’s “put up or shut up” – or in more extreme cases – quit the company.  Then you better hope that the grass really is greener on the other side… or at least the coffee.

change management 3.0_rush hour 2

But if you do persist with your campaign for change, then Jurgen Appelo has written a short handbook „Change Management 3.0“ for changing organisations.  Appelo (famous for his book “Management 3.0”) puts forward a change management supermodel.  It is comprised of 4 steps:

  1. Dance with the System
  2. Mind the People
  3. Stimulate the Network
  4. Change the Environment

I was going to write a proper review of this book.  Well, actually I did – but it was kind of dry and boring.  So instead I thought I would consider how these steps played a role the last time I tried some bottom-up change management.

When I first got into Scrum (for software development – the last time I was in a real scrum was at school!) I was a bit naive about the whole change aspect.  I was way too caught up in the excitement of iterative development and the freedom of not being tied down to unrealistic deadlines with unnecessary feature sets.  When I create something, I normally have a first go at it and then start refining it, over and over again until I have the finished article.  Scrum seemed to work the way I did, so it felt natural and I wanted to spread the good news.

So in terms of the book, I knew where I wanted to go.  I had my vision of a better world and I had to “Dance with the System” to get permission to start the transformation.  In other words, convince my boss that this was the only way he was going to get his product on time.  He needed this project, so it was both desirable and urgent for him.

Then came the next step “Mind the people”.  This actually wasn’t too difficult (at the start) because there was a lot of pressure for a solution and there was a hard deadline.  Selling Scrum as a means of delivering the absolute minimum to go live was relatively easy.  The other option was no product at all.  In real terms, this meant getting our own development room, introducing the Scrum methodology and coaching the developers and product owners on how to make the most of this opportunity.  It took a while for some of the core concepts to sink in – but when they did things really took off.

Of course I was missing the deeper change aspect – “stimulating the network”.  I thought I could create a little self-contained commune isolated from the rest of the company where we could create a fantastic product free of outside interference.  So I had my initiators and one or two innovators on board and away we went.  In terms of the book, I ignored the early adopters, early majority, late majority and in particular the laggards.  I was too busy living the dream!

Unfortunately the truth is that you can’t work in isolation.  You’re part of an organisation and at some point you’re going to run up against it.  If the groundwork hasn’t been done in stimulating the network, then the odds are that your little campaign to change things will crash and burn.  There are a lot of vested interests that often feel threatened by change.  If these people can’t be convinced of the benefits for them, then they will try and destroy the change before (in their view) it destroys them.

You may run up against this straight away, when you try to add testers to your team. It may be when you need more time and attention from your product owner.  It could be trying to get management to remove impediments.  Or it could be when you run up against an operations department that considers change to be the root of all evil.  Either way, you’ll come into contact with resistance in some form.

If the proper support isn’t in place, because you haven’t stimulated the network, then you may never get the chance to move on to the final step “Change the Environment”.  This is all about keeping your initial successes going by reinforcing the good behaviour brought about by the changes.  If the changes don’t become part of the fabric and culture of the organisation, then there is the distinct possibility that things will revert to the good old ways and the ground that you won will be lost.

If nothing else, Appelo’s book is useful reminder of just how difficult change management is.  He has tips and tricks for each step and he does a good job of making clear just how long the journey can be.  Which it may well be worth thinking about, before embarking on your next campaign to make the world a better place 😉


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