December 19, 2014

What Does it Take to Change?

 

With the holiday season in full gear, many of us start crafting one or more New Year’s resolutions:
A secular tradition … in which a person makes a promise to do an act of self-improvement…beginning on New Year’s Day.

What are some of your resolutions? Spend less and save more? Get fit? Healthier diet?

For many (including me!), it usually plays out like this: we’ll have the initial motivation on New Year’s Day, stick with our new routine for a few days, or maybe even a few weeks. Despite our best intentions, however, the resolutions eventually lose momentum and we revert back to our previous habits. Has this ever happened to you? If so, why?

Now … imagine a scenario where an otherwise-healthy person receives distressing and compelling news out of a routine doctor visit. The doctor strongly advises the patient to make lifestyle changes now to avoid a life-threatening situation later.

Consider these questions for a moment:

  • What would the doctor need to do to influence the patient to change?

  • What makes this situation different than making a New Year’s resolution?


Organizations face this situation as well. New Year’s resolutions are made – perhaps in the form of annual change management initiatives – but as many of us have experienced over the years, most of these initiatives fail to stick and the organization reverts to the status quo. But what if the organization’s survival is at stake and if it does not change, it will go out of business? What does it take for an organization to really change?

Urgency


If we look at the first step in the popular and proven Leading Change model, lasting organizational change starts with an established sense of urgency. If leadership is able to identify the true urgency for change and instill this feeling in others, change can take effect:
Sense of Urgency -- The ability for organizational leadership to make decisions and influence a change in behavior to meet important windows of opportunity.

For example, transitioning a software development organization from a waterfall operation to a nimble Agile operation is a complex organizational change effort that involves multiple components: people, culture, practices and tools - all toward the collective pursuit and achievement of higher business performance that addresses the organization’s established sense of urgency. In smaller companies, this unifying sense of urgency can be easier to establish (in some cases), and it's that urgency that garners the unwavering support of organizational leadership.

I am often approached by organizations that want to “buy” agile with the perception that it will quick-fix IT departments or make challenged projects suddenly move faster and better. Perhaps you are in an organization that views an Agile journey with this perception. Consider challenging this thinking in your organization. Sure, I can make a New Year’s resolution to change my diet and exercise more next year – but what is the underlying sense of urgency for me to pursue the “right” changes in lifestyle and ensure that they last?

If your organization has a New Year’s resolution to pursue an Agile journey, first explore and uncover the underlying sense of urgency behind this resolution. Are your competitors moving market share? Is the immediate survival of your company at stake? Is the organization losing money?

Here’s to a promising New Year, meaningful resolutions and lasting, positive change for you and your organization…

 

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I really appreciate you taking time to read this post. If you learned something new or were inspired in any way, please consider sharing with your colleagues so we can collectively make a difference in organizations of all shapes and sizes. Scrum On!

I also teach, mentor and coach People, Teams and Organizations to high levels of performance in an Agile environment. Want to experience some of my teachings in person? I would be privileged to collaborate with you at one of my upcoming events.

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