Thinking Like a Change Architect

Architecture is a fixture in software and construction projects, but what can change agents learn by applying ideas from architecture to organizational change?
November 20, 2014
Jason is the author of Lean Change Management and founder of the Lean Change Management Association and Spark the Change Toronto

“If you want to make architecture rather than just a building, you have 3 choices: hire an architect, become an architect or learn to think like an architect.” – Hal Box, from the book, Think Like an Architect.

My 9 year old loves skyscrapers and over the weekend we stumbled across an interesting read about the Intempo Skyscraper that was plagued with design and architecture problems.

The building was originally intended to have 20 floors but during construction, the developers changed the plan to 47 floors. Unfortunately, the architecture and design wasn’t updated to reflect what would actually be needed to accommodate this. As a result, there was no space for the additional elevators to get people to the top!

Architecture is a fixture of software development and building construction and there are severe impacts to both when architecture is forgotten in favour of getting real work done. But what about change? Many of today’s change models focus on executing linear processes in order to install change in an organization. If we only follow these best practices from <insert big consulting firm, or popular process model here> we’ll be successful!

In the book Think Like an Architect, the author describes in 13 chapters how one can learn to, well, think like an architect. From exploring other buildings to visualizing architecture with drawings and actual building work, architecture is happening constantly.

With organizational change, using these ideas is a little bit different so we can remove a few of those chapters and focus on what’s relevant for change architects.

thinking-like-a-change-architect.001

 

Vision: What’s the vision for this change? What do we aspire to be?

Models: Which models are relevant to the type of change we’re implementing? You would approach a re-org drastically differently from how you would approach an Agile Transformation or a large business process change.

Explore: Connect with other change architects. What tools and models are they using? What is working for them? What hasn’t worked for them? Look at Options and consider the cost vs value tradeoff, some changes might not be worth implementing.

Visualize: Use big visible information radiators to communicate the change and manage the change work. Visualize impacts of change experiments and visualize feedback from people affected by the change.

Add Meaning: What does this change mean for our organization? For our people?

Organizational change is highly un-certain, learning how to explore and navigate your way through change by thinking like an architect can help you, and your organization figure out  the best way to manage change instead of simply buying an off-the-shelf and prescriptive process.

 

 

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