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Have you ever tasted a superb strawberry just off a family farm? Or a micro brew beer from a small brewery or a chocolate from superior chocolatier? If you have, you can remember the mouth feel, the explosion of taste in your mouth, the way it felt sliding down your throat. Yum. You experienced an artisanal food experience.
We can experience artisanal change, just as we experience these wonderful artisanal food experiences. We have to be just as careful about how we create the change in our organizations. Here are three tips that might help you become an agent of artisanal change.
Tip #1: Don’t name the change.
When you name the change, people assume it’s a management fad, and they can ignore it. Or, they think it’s part of a Big Honking Binder, and they will have to live with a System. Or, they think it’s a Structure or a Framework that they cannot adapt to their needs. They will think bad thoughts about this change.
Instead, explain the results you want from the change. For example, if you are considering transitioning to agile, say why you want to transition. Maybe you want more flexibility in changing requirements throughout the project. Maybe you want to see demos throughout the project. Maybe you want to see if you can end projects early, once you have enough business value. Whatever your business needs are, explain those.
Tip #2: Implement the change most likely to succeed first.
Especially if you haven’t changed anything in a while, people are unaccustomed to change at work. You have to help people learn how to adapt. If you start with lots of change, people are going to see this as a ginormous change and be all confused. Instead, start with something likely to succeed or likely to make people happy.
If you are transitioning to agile, you might start with timeboxes first, without an agile transition. Or, you might start with project boards, just to see where you are. Even better, you might ask for a volunteer project as a pilot project to try agile and see what happens. Agile is a system, so trying it partway doesn’t make sense. But trying it for one project does make sense, as a small change.
Tip #3: Become a change attractor by saying “Let’s experiment” or something similar.
Even when people flex their change muscles, some change is still scary. Don’t keep throwing change after change after change at people. Offer changes as experiments when people can manage another experiment. If the people say, “Not yet,” you know that you’ve introduced another potential change too early, and it’s time to wait a while.
In the meantime, you can implement that change yourself. If you are considering continuous integration, you can continuously integrate your code. Or, if you want to do test-driven development, you do that. Or automated test driven development, you do that. Once you see the results of your work, you can report on your experiment.
If you are a manager-type, you can say, “I want to experiment with managing the project portfolio. I’m doing this to stop the multitasking and moving people around like chess pieces. If I do it right, you shouldn’t notice anything except that your work gets easier.”
Artisanal change is a challenge. And, it’s effective. If you try these tips, let me know what happens.
A Change Artist is someone whose presence improves everyone’s chance of making a positive change. Would you like to improve your change artistry skills? You have an opportunity to join Esther Derby, Don Gray, Jerry Weinberg, and me at Change Artistry 2013, September 23-27, 2013 in Albuquerque, NM.
Please join us.
I’ll be at Agile Development/Better Software the week of June 2, 2013 in Las Vegas.
I’ll be at Überconf, July 16 – 19, 2013, in Westminster, CO.
Are you new to the Pragmatic Manager newsletter? See previous issues here.
See my articles page for my articles. If you see one that interests you and you would like me to speak about it, let me know.
copyright 2013 Johanna Rothman
copyright 2013 Johanna Rothman