As we close out November’s Lean Change Management Association (LCMA) theme, this article ties in what we sometimes forget about: expectations of the change agent.

In the first article, I showed how to use a simple grid to do a change readiness assessment, and if you’re an LCMA member, you would have seen the short video tutorial about how to do this “at scale”. This article is a combination of both, plus adding expectations between people on a team, and expectations for the change agent.

Context:

  • a large, multi-year program involved 25 teams (vendors, consultants, internal teams spanning 9 VP groups)
  • a desire to “be more agile” for this program
  • no desire for transformation, or culture shift, this was strictly focused on the program
  • I had a history of working with this organization for a number of years as an external coach

Change Readiness

If you’ve worked in an enterprise organization, you’ve probably experienced a communication-by-PPT culture. This organization was no different so I did the bare minimum information deck with a huge disclaimer in bold red text that the deck is a placeholder for a conversation.

Along with the deck came a survey with these questions:

  • Which group do you belong to?
  • If you could sum up what “agile” means to this program, what would it be?
  • What do you think is the biggest barrier to using an agile approach on this program?
  • Despite the barriers, do you think it’s a good idea to work in a more agile way for this program?
  • Any other comments?

The raw, non-confidential data is available to members via http://association.leanchange.org

What happened afterward:

We had 3 liftoffs and used the output from the survey as input into the conversations. After that, we created a program working agreement which included things like:

  • architectural decisions (where was the boundary between what the teams could decide versus when they had to get enterprise architecture involved)
  • who’s need when and where (we all suffer from too many meetings, this allowed us to be explicit with our decision making)
  • inventory of all ceremonies (existing meetings, standups etc – this helped visualize how over-saturated people were with meetings which allowed the group to un-invite some people, and simplify meeting structures)
  • single source of truth (with this many teams involved “pulling from one backlog” was far too simple of a model to follow. Each team had their own backlogs as this program wasn’t the only one some teams were working on. There was a program level backlog and each team would take a piece and add it to theirs)

We’re fortunate to live in a world where Google knows everything so there’s really no need to worry about an operating model “at scale” because there are hundreds of them out there. What was missing were the expectations on me, and between people on the program teams.

Expectations:

At the team level, I played the Newlywed Game. This helped enable a conversation between team members, scrum masters, and product owners because while Scrum is simple and the roles are easy to understand, when there are 25 teams, the idea of “product owner” makes no sense. It becomes a team of product owners which puts the emphasis on decision making boundaries, and timelines of decisions.

As for me, we played a more simple version of the Newlywed game:

  • as a client, what do you expect from me, the external coach?
  • as a client, what do you think my expectations of you are?

November’s theme is all about change readiness, but remember, while traditional change management practises think this is a one-and-done activity, it absolutely is not. We need agreement and expectations to get started, and we need to review these agreements and expectations often to see what’s working and what needs fixing.

If you’d like to see all the raw pictures, survey results, artifacts and to join the conversation, sign-up for the Lean Change Management Association! Each month we feature a new theme with stories, online video chats are more! Starting in December, our theme will be Self-Care for Change Agents.

Jason Little
Author, Lean Change Management at Leanintuit
I began my career as a web developer when Cold Fusion roamed the earth. Over the following years, I moved into management, Agile Coaching and consulting. The bumps and bruises I collected along the way helped me realize that helping organizations adopt Agile practices was less about the practices, and all about change.
In 2008 I attended an experiential learning conference (AYE) about how people experience change and since then, I’ve been writing, and speaking, all over the world about helping organizations discover more effective practices for managing organizational change.