Why We Fail to Change

agileToday I read an interesting article written by Pawel Brodzinski called ‘Why We Fail to Change: Understanding Practices, Principles, and Values is a Solution.” I’ll share some of the key points, please read the original article for the full context, it’s worth the effort!

The ultimate recipe

  • 70% of all major change efforts in organisations fail – Kotter International Website
  • Organisations often look for recipes. People copy the most visible, obvious, and frequently least important practices.
  • For each practice, we can derive an underlying principle, and for every principle the value can be clarified. For example:
    • Visualisation (practice)
    • Understand what is happening and better availability of information (principle)
    • Transparency (value)

Repeated observations

  • A proven method to derive the real principles and values of an organisation, is by checking the used practices and behaviours.
  • Repeated observations will tell you a lot about the values and principles of the organisation.
  • There are no best practices, only good practices in context (Larry Maccherone).

Match or mismatch

  • Understanding a match, or mismatch, between the principles and values that fuel a method or practice and those by which an organisation lives is important. Without it, the success of a practice is like a shot in the dark.
  • Try to find the best match by running small-scale, safe-to-fail experiments.
  • The impact of introducing a specific practice will be as heavily limited as the impact of any value. The depth of the change would depend on how universally spread the relevant principles and values are in an organisation. That’s why we see a lot of shallow yet working implementations of agile methods. It works on a team level but not much further than that.

Mindfulness

  • The game changer is mindfulness. Ultimately, mindful use of a practice leads to learning while mindless use of that practice leads to a shot in the dark.
  • There is no simple answer to the question of why we fail to change – at least not in a form of a recipe. In fact, we have plenty of recipes and they are one the key reasons why we’ve kept repeating the same mistakes for more than 40 years.
  • We need to change our mindset.

The take-away

  • There’s no reward for being a Scrum or Kanban shop if we are not delivering value to our customers. Don’t just jump on the next bandwagon, whatever that might be. Learn thoroughly about a new approach before you roll it out deeply and widely in your organisation.
  • Run small-scale experiments to get first-hand experience. Understand the organisational culture. Evolve the approach so it better fits your context.
  • While it requires some work and an open mind, it isn’t rocket science. It is about mindfulness that results in learning. Only then will a change be sustainable and successful.

These are my key points of Pawel’s excellent article; again check the original article for the full context.