Change- The Messy And The Unpredictable

Change is not linear. It is messy and unpredictable.

Ever seen the 120 pages power point plan from consultants about your organizational change? That paints a perfect picture of a To-Be situation, and a clear gated path to success? That costs you half a million euros. Then you roll the change out, implement it or cascade the change. Yup. Time to wake up.

Bringing Lean Change to Finland

The Lean Change methods and mindset builds on understanding and accepting that change is never linear and predictable. Instead, we are navigating in the complex and chaotic domains (see Cynefin model), where different tools and methods than we might be used to can be used to progress with change and work with the people who are influenced by change.

The participants were writing their change manifestos (in the spirit of the agile manifesto).

Here are their quite hard core change manifesto lines:

  • Participation and co-creation over Predefined plans and solutions
  • Valuing dissonance and dialogue over Managing resistance
  • Shared meanings and alignment over Top down vision
  • Individuals and interactions over Processes and tools
  • Adaptive collaborative roadmap building over Fixed plans
  • Transparent communication over Silos and exclusive information
  • Responding to findings over Following a plan
  • Co-creation over Top-down rollout
  • Genuine need over Fad
  • Transparency and open dialogue over Politics
  • Learning through experiments over Executing change activities
  • Co-creation over Management target setting and roll-outs
  • People and learning over Targets and KPI’s

Unpredictable, So, Where To Start?

In the Lean Change thinking, I especially like activating people to think about culture hacking. Culture hacking is first about observing the ongoing system and finding “cracks” in the system. A crack could be something that is out of sync, doesn’t work, that people go on autopilot instead of being consciously thinking about their actions, or i.e. irregularities. I myself identify cracks in the system where I hear contradicting evidence, stories that do not match, or either strong emotions or no emotions at all (insignificance).

Second, you do something that disturbs the system, i.e directs attention in a new way, forces changed behaviour, makes the invisible painfully visible, or works intuitively much better than the previous way of doing things.

Need An Idea- Here’s The Hack

An idea for a hack might be the following: Stop all the reporting your team is doing. (Gather the data, but don’t send the report). Just stop it. See who shouts at and in which order, because they need your data. What can you learn from this hack?

We divided the ideas into green zone hacks (safe to proceed with), yellow zone hacks (bit risky, might cause disruption) and red zone hacks (very risky, might get you fired, will clearly cause reactions and disruption). The red ones are pretty difficult to come up with!

The point is to hack something and see how the system reacts, then learn, see if it caused something useful/valuable, scale and institutionalize new behaviour that is helpful.

All people systems are unpredictable and your perfect plans won’t take you very far in building sustainable and healthy new ways of working. Hacks are one way of probing what would work and bring value. (or get you fired…)

Peoplegeeks works with the lean change mindset and toolkit in complex transformations and change initiatives. We work with the people, respecting their self-directive participation, use co-creation,  build transparency and follow an iterative stepwise, agile progress in all our projects.

/Riina Hellström, Peoplegeeks Co-Founder and complex change whisperer

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