Visualising change

Visualising change

I recently spent a pleasant evening in London talking to Gez Smith about all things Agile/Lean supposedly so he could interview me on Why Agile Transformations fail. A few days before I scribbled some pictures / mind maps in a trusty notebook in an attempt to clarify my thoughts. I realise that during our chat I forgot most of those points and probably rambled and didn’t necessarily get to the nub of the problem. It’s amazing what a microphone will do to someone. Going back to my diagram I realise that it only touched upon what one of the causes of failure are which I’m fitting into the resistance/landscape category below. Ignore what the Sci-fi films tell you, resistance is certainly not futile when it comes to change.

So I went back to the drawing board and this time instead of a mind map I tried to visualise change as that is what any form of transformation is. With hindsight perhaps I should have read a little more about Kurt Lewin and re-read some of John Kotters work before deciding that the world needs another visual aid to change. However I often find that a nice simple diagram helps me remember so I’m going to share it anyway. I also wanted something that worked equally well for personal change as it did for business change. Why should an individual’s reaction to change not scale up to a team or organisations reaction to change? Well actually there are loads of reasons, teams and organisations change the way people act but again I’m going to ignore this until everyone decides to just be themselves.

So here is my simple visualisation of change.

Ok, I said it was simple but let me explain how I visualise change and why.

Destination:

So let’s start with the thing that’s not in the diagram. A change should have a goal, vision, destination or at least a direction of travel. Everyone involved should have a good understanding of this vision and the key players should hopefully have some level of buy in.

Examples:

  • I’m going to run the London Marathon
  • I want to get fit
  • I want to sell my house
  • I want to develop a new software solution that will allow me to gain competitive advantage
  • I want to adopt an empirical approach to everything I do so I can deliver faster, improve continually and adapt to the ever changing market place I operate in.

So now we understand where we want to get to at this point in time! However how do we tell when we’ve got there? When we do get there, will we want or need to stop? Will we discover a new goal or vision along the way? Let’s hope we’re starting with the last bullet point goal so that we can take advantage of anything that comes our way.

Change:

So now we know where we’re going let’s focus on that large green circle that is our change. I find the key here is to try and visualise or understand the mass or gravity of the thing we’re attempting to do. It’s something we’re going to have to get moving in order to get to our destination, how far is the destination and how heavy is that sphere?

Examples:

  • Selling my house would be like moving a football. Fairly simple as long as I don’t have to kick it.
  • Running the marathon would be like moving a 1 metre diameter ball of stone.
  • Developing a new software product could be anything from a ping-pong ball to delivering the rocks for Stonehenge.

Need:

A need is anything that is driving you to change. There may be one thing or many. To be honest there may be none. In the example of getting fit at the moment there is no need, there may well be a desire but we’ll cover that in a moment. Delivering a new piece of software may be required to comply with certain regulations or in order to maintain an advantage or gain one. We should attempt to identify all of our needs. They may come in handy in getting people behind the boulder and pushing. I visualise this as “pushing” as we want to move our boulder away from the current position.

Needs can be generated although this can be so detrimental that it’s not worth considering. For example I could get so unfit that I have a medical need to do some exercise but this would increase the weight of the change so much that I’d struggle to get it moving. The same can and has been done on software products, let them get so out of date, tweaked or riddle with technical debt that you have no choice but to implement a change. These things should only be done with full understanding of what you are doing and acceptance of the affect it will have on your effort to change.

Desire / Appetite:

A desire comes from the other end. Your desire allows you to inhabit the destination space and pull the change towards you. Going back to getting fit I have no need but there are a lot of desires that I have which could allow me to move that change towards its goal. In software terms a more intuitive user interface could be a need but often is more of a desire. Sometimes all of these desires culminate in a very large pulling force.

Desire and appetites can more easily be changed or enhanced. For example allowing more insight into your destination or vision can bring people on board. Prototypes of software, a short iterative delivery mechanism or working software delivered to the users will all increase an appetite for the reaching the destination. Appetite is an interesting concept as there seems to be many cross overs between our appetites for food for example and our appetite for change. Allow peoples senses to sneak peek at the end result and their appetite can be kicked into action. Perhaps another post! One risk with desires or appetites is your ability to deliver for them. Build a hunger and then don’t deliver food and you are going to have an uphill battle.

Landscape:

The last items in my visualisation is the landscape or terrain that I’m going to have to move my change through. This is where I finally get back to my conversation with Gez. This is where the culture lives. You can’t have culture without people and with people and change you often get fear. So I attempt to envisage all of these things here. The people that will be affected in a positive or negative way. The culture that runs through them and envelopes them (@Gez – I really should have answered that culture is like the force without the same level of power).  The fears that these people may or may not have.

All of these variables can change, you may be pushing your change across a flat field one minute and the next pushing up a mountain. If you get the people, culture and fear behind you then the change may roll all the way to its destination. Then you might have to worry about the next problem which is stopping that change where you want it. Perhaps this is the point at which I defer to Lewin and his freeze phase. More on that perhaps in another post.

 

Conclusion

So in conclusion I find this a useful visual aid for change. It allows me to very simply capture the variables that surrounds a change and think about ways I can affect them. I’ve created a google docs diagram that can be used as a template for capturing this information. Please feel free to use if you find it useful my only request is that you send people this way to read about it.

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