effective change

Invitation Over Imposition: A Four Step Guide to Effective Change

Invitation over imposition.   This is at the heart of agility.  Scratch that.  It’s at the heart of being a sincere and empathetic human who believes in others and wants to make a difference.

Unfortunately, I’m sure many of us have seen Scrum imposed on teams.  They’re told to begin using sprints.  They’re required to conduct sprint planning, sprint reviews, and so on.  Some lip service might be paid to why, but when the team doesn’t buy into it, someone’s will is imposed on them.  Is this really an effective way of affecting change?

Some might argue that change is hard.  That if we impose these changes for long enough, teams to begin to realize the value and accept it.  I’m not buying it.  Change isn’t hard.

It’s unwanted change that’s hard.

If people didn’t enjoy change, would we ever change jobs?  Or would we ever marry?  Why would anyone ever have kids?  As a parent of a 16 and 18 year old, I can’t imagine a change more life altering than children!  Can you?

But that begs the question.  How do we invite change instead of imposing it?  I’ll give you a four-step recipe I’ve used successfully for years to affect change at both the individual and team levels.  It goes something like this.

  1. What do we think of this thing?  Do agree this is where we’re at now?  Are we happy with it?  If not, why not?  What would we like it to look like?  In the long-term, how would our world look different and why is that better?  But wait.  Let’s not figuring out how we’ll get there.  Let’s just decide on where we are and our vision of the future.
  2. Is this a priority?  Now that we envision this bold change, is it important?  Is there something we’re currently doing that’s not quite as important?  If so, what is it?  If not, we’ll need to keep talking.  After all, change takes time, consistency, and dedication.  So let’s make sure we carve out the required time to do this right.  Otherwise, let’s not do it yet.  Let’s wait until it becomes a priority.
  3. What’s the smallest thing we can try tomorrow? Not in a week or a month.  Tomorrow.  But be less ambitious.  It shouldn’t be big, and I’m sure it won’t take into account all the complexity of the issue or context of our organization.  Still, let’s make sure it’s at least measurable.  After all, if we can’t find a way to measure it, how will know it’s working? Maybe measure is too strong of a word though.  Detectable?  Observable?  No.  Clear. Clear and simple. And small too so take that thing we want to do and make it just a bit smaller one last time. Who cares that we don’t solve it all at once. Let’s have a bias toward action.  Why’s that matter?

Change isn’t an event; it’s a process.

  1. Did our small tweak work?  What data or observations do we have that validate how we feel?  How’s everyone else feel about our tweak?  So it worked?  Good.  How can we do more of that?  It didn’t work?  Then let’s try something else.  But wait.  Before we do anything, is this really the most important thing we could be doing?  Let’s step back up to #2 above and work our way down just as before.    

That’s it.  I’ve been following these four steps over and over again for the past decade.  Has it always worked?  No.  Failure is unavoidable but invaluable, and I learn from each and every misstep.  What’s the hardest part?   For me, it’s knowing which step I’m currently taking.  While it’s clear on paper, the real world is messy, murky, and sometimes uncooperative.

And it’s books like Switch–which I’ve written about before–that digs deep into concepts like the rider and elephant metaphor that are subtext throughout my four steps.  In fact, I took a moment to copy some of my favorite quotes from Switch below.  Pick up the book, if you haven’t already, and we’ll talk again soon.

  • For anything to change, someone has to start acting differently.
  • Big problems are rarely solved with commensurately big solutions.
  • Any successful change requires a translation of ambiguous goals into concrete behaviors.
  • SMART goals presume the emotion; they don’t generate it.
  • When you’re at the beginning, don’t obsess about the middle, because the middle is going to look different once you get there. Just look for a strong beginning and a strong ending and get moving.

Do you want to get notified when new posts are published? Leave your email below.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *