“While there is risk to change, just like with innovation, there is often potentially more risk associated with doing nothing.” – Braden Kelley
If your organization is seeking to create a continuous change capability, it must have a strong focus on increasing its organizational agility.
As you use the Change Planning Toolkit™ to kick off your next project or your next change initiative, keep thinking about what the minimum viable progress (MVP) might be in order to maintain momentum. This is very similar to the idea of a minimum viable product, a key lean startup concept popularized by Eric Ries, author of the bestselling book, The Lean Startup.
Minimum viable progress means that for change initiatives and projects to be successful, it is mandatory to have a successful planning session where strong buy-in is achieved at the start. It is equally important at all stages of the process to show a level of progress sufficient to maintain the momentum and support for the project or change initiative you worked so hard to achieve at the start.
This is where the agile principles highlighted later in this article come into play. The goal of our change or project planning efforts should be not just to prototype what the change might look like, but to also build a plan that breaks up the work into a cadence the organization can cope with and successfully implement into a new standard operating procedure. Many thought leaders extol the virtues of quick wins, but I believe structuring your project or change effort into a series of similarly sized sprints will give you a sustainable flow of wins (and thus momentum) throughout all of the transitions that will lead to success. In the end, momentum wins.
Quick Wins versus Momentum
One of the ways to create sustainable momentum is to take an agile approach to change and to segment your overall change effort into a series of work packages that you can properly staff, execute, and celebrate. Many projects and change efforts get off to a roaring start, achieve a few quick wins, but stall when longer, more substantial pieces of the work must be completed, often with only limited communication and little visible progress.
The change initiative then begins to lose the support of key stakeholders (and potentially resources) as members of the change leadership team begin to lose enthusiasm, break solidarity, and withdraw support. This dooms the effort, preventing it from ever being completed as intended.
Momentum beats quick wins, and engaging in a more visual, collaborative, agile change planning method like the one described in my book Charting Change will lead you to more successful change efforts because these methods can help you maintain momentum. The Agile Change Management Kanban is a useful tool that toolkit buyers can leverage to visualize and track change effort progress.
Building and Maintaining Momentum
There are many different reasons why people will do the right thing to help you build and maintain the momentum for your change initiative and to help you achieve sustained, collective momentum. The key to building and maintaining momentum is to understand and harness the different mindsets that cause people to choose change; these include:
1. Mover ’n’ Shaker
- give these people the chance to be first
2. Thrill Seeker
- these people like to try new things and experiment
- these people need reasons to believe
- these people just want to know what needs to be done
- teach these people how to do it, and they will seek mastery
- these people want recognition for adopting the change
7. Team Player
- these people are happy to help if you show them why the change will be helpful
- show these people how to get others to choose change
Change leaders and project managers should read through this list and imagine what might happen if you don’t address any of these mindsets in your change plan. In doing so, you might find yourself quickly identifying eight potential explanations for why people may be resisting your change effort. If any of these mindsets are playing out in the negative, then you must try and identify ways to turn these individuals back toward the positive as you work through the different phases of change.
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Bringing More Elements of Agile to Change
As you begin to move from the widespread chaos-driven change management model (“we do it differently every time”) to using the concepts presented in my book Charting Change and reinforced through the use of the Change Planning Toolkit™ to spread the knowledge of how to use the collaborative, visual change planning process, you will crave a more coordinated approach to change readiness evaluation. Instead of looking at change readiness on a case-by-case basis for each individual project or change initiative, you will quickly find yourself considering the use of a more agile approach to managing change readiness. You may begin asking yourself these ten (10) questions:
- Is it possible to have a change backlog?
- Do we need a burndown chart to measure how quickly we are burning through our backlog?
- Is it necessary to begin prioritizing the change backlog in order to phase in change into different parts of the organization at a pace each part can absorb?
- Should we carve up our change initiatives into a predictable series of sprints with a regular cadence?
- How long should our change sprints be?
- How much of the change initiative can the organization absorb at any one time in order to maintain forward momentum?
- Is there a need for periods of settling in (scheduled periods of equilibrium) between change sprints?
- Is there a need for the status of various projects and change initiatives to be visible throughout the organization?
- Is there a need for a business architect to build a business capability heatmap that highlights the amount of change impacting different business capabilities?
- Do you have a business capability map? Do you have business architects in your organization?
If your organization is trying to become more capable of continuous change, then answering many of these questions in the affirmative and taking appropriate action will result in an accelerated change planning capability and faster change absorption.
An Appropriate Pace of Change
For your change effort to be a success you need to find the appropriate pace of change. Finding the right pace of change is very similar to trying to fly an airplane: Go too slow and your change effort will stall. Go too fast and you will face an increasing amount of resistance, potentially depleting the support for your change faster than expected.
In many cases, using up the energy for change too fast may prevent you from reaching your intended destination. One other danger of trying to change too fast, especially if you are trying to run too many change initiatives (or projects) at the same time in the same areas of the company, is that you may run into issues of change saturation.
The key for you as change leader is to identify a regular cadence for your change initiative (or project) that is comfortable for the organization as a whole. That cadence must be slow enough so that the incremental change can be readily adopted and absorbed but fast enough so that your positive forward momentum, executive sponsorship, and overall support are maintained. The pacing and the approach must ultimately help enlist the broader organization in the change effort by reducing feelings of uncertainty, reinforcing that the change is a team effort, and accumulating reasons to believe in the change outcomes and so that people choose change.
Finally, you must have a plan for harnessing each of the eight change mindsets in your organization and leveraging them to advance your change effort, otherwise these mindsets will occupy themselves in negative ways and actively resist your change initiative or project. So, harness these mindsets, leverage the infographic and link back to this article using the embed code, and get yourself a copy of the #2 new release on Amazon for Organizational Change, my new book – Charting Change.
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Braden Kelley is a popular innovation speaker, builds sustainable innovation cultures, and tools for creating successful change. He is the author of the five-star book Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire and the creator of the revolutionary new Change Planning Toolkit™. Follow him on Twitter (@innovate) and Linkedin.