Implementing agile in an organization could be a very hard and complicated thing and it could become even harder especially if you are impatient to see the anticipated benefits. It’s common said that it is very easy to start with agile and to my experience and observations it is even easier to fall back to old ways of doing things – maybe renamed – when you realize that you are in the middle of chaos!
Is there any way to have a successful agile change that serves its purpose? The answer is yes and Jason Little describe that way in his book “Lean Change Management” which is an excellent resource with concrete practices, that could help any agile change agent to be good at change!
Recently i had a great challenge to train a big project team in agile methodologies, that came as their need to handle a very complex product with high uncertainty in what to do and how to do it! I’ve seen this challenge as from the very beginning as a change rather than as a conventional two days training and i thought that it was a great opportunity to experiment with the Lean Change management approach!
As Jason suggests in his book, a Lean Change cycle starts with gathering insights about the current state of the organization. There are multiple ways and models that could help someone to do that and i found really challenging to experiment with a retrospective based on Virginia’s Satir change model as one of the method i’ve used to gather insights.
I’ve made the hypothesis that making all participants aware of that change model will help to improve they way they process their own change related to their agile implementation and move smoothly from one stage to another.
In brief the model consist of the following five stages:
Late Status Quo: Everything is familiar, comfortable and performance is stable
Foreign Element (Resistance): A foreign element threatens the stability of familiar structures. Most people resists by denying its validity. That foreign element is not particularly a sudden crisis, but rather the “sudden realization that things have been very unhealthy”
Chaos: In Chaos people affected by the change try to ignore the foreign element , hide from it or actively fight it. People might even reject the foreign element so much, that they end up at Old-Status-Quo behavior! Confusion, anger, drop in performance are just a few side effects.
Transforming Idea (Practice and Integration): In that stage after coping with the foreign element, people finally discover in a transforming idea that shows how the foreign element can benefit them and they start integrating the benefits into their new identity. People will need a lot of slack-time to try out new things. Some things will turn out to be bad ideas, others will work greatly.
New Status Quo: Performance stabilize in a higher level that the old status quo. Roles, responsibilities, ways of working are clear and a new status quo is born, just until you realize the next foreign element, and the cycle starts from the start!
I’ve started the retrospective with the description of the model and on the way people react in every stage. As a next step participants triggered to answer in sticky notes a few questions related to model stages and we discussed as a group the different views.
The questions i’ve used, inspired by Jason’s book are listed below:
Late Status Quo, “everything being familiar and in balance”
What was working well?
What was making you feel comfortable in that state?
Foreign Element, Resistance, Chaos, “sudden realization that things have been very unhealthy”
Which are your main concerns related to this change?
Which are the main obstacles that restrain you to get the benefit of this change?
Transforming Idea, “AHA!..i learned something!”
Which are the forces that driving this change?
Which are the benefits you have seen so far?
What are you willing to do in order to make the change work?
What will you need to do differently?
What support do you need for me?
New Status Quo, “everything being familiar and in balance”
What is your VISION, your new target position with respect to this change?
How will we measure success New Status Quo
The amount of generated insights was impressive! Project team members came to a conclusion that maybe the foreign element that triggered their comfort zone was the project complexity and it was less related to their agile implementation. For sure agile surfaced even more dysfunctions that there was need to handle. However they have started seeing it as the transforming idea, the vehicle and not the impediment to succeed with their project and get out of the chaos. They were expressing some of benefits they had seen so far form their agile implementation, while reflecting on things that they need to change or challenge for themselves. It was also useful that the main barriers related to their change, like management support, product roadmap, team structure were highlighted. It was also interesting that participants thought about their new status quo and what they need to do in order to reach their wanted position. This helped the project team to co-create a list of options (second step on the Lean Change management) that they could work further depending on the value they will get compared to the effort or cost they need to invest as suggested in Lean Change Management.
If i could sum-up the whole approach we have used to generate insights in a few words i would choose awareness, alignment
Concluding, start gathering insights is the first step in Lean Change and to my experience the Satir Change model could be a really helpful way to generate them! To move forward and support any change to serve it’s purpose you just need a few more steps. Apart from insights, you need options, make a lot of experiments, learn, reflect, run more, start anew!
Would you like to be good at change? I would suggest to learn about the Lean Change Management approach and try it!