Friday, August 30, 2013

Accelerate Change Learning through the Validated Change Life Cycle; leveraging Kotter, Kanban, and Lean Startup

During previous posts I've discussed how change agents can collaborate with change recipients to negotiate their way to a successful change solution.


I've also discussed how a change canvas can be refined so that the change is minimal, as well as subjecting it to explicit experimentation to ensure that it is viable. This allows us to incorporate the concept of validated learning .

During this post I'll continue to build upon these previous topics, going over the Validated Change Lifecycle. The validated change lifecycle provides a path for minimum viable changes to be developed and validated in a way that maximizes feedback and learning.

Why Do We Need a Validated Change Lifecycle?

Change initiatives face a multitude of risks all of which can derail any chance of a positive outcome.

Using the Validated Change Lifecycle risks and assumptions that tend to impact change initiatives first can be dealt with earlier. Other risks and assumptions that impact change initiatives later can be deferred until it makes the most sense.

Change agents who elect to follow the lifecycle are able to learn faster about whether a particular change is viable. The idea is to provide feedback with less effort, so that a decision around whether to pivot or pursue or abandon can be made earlier.

As described in previous posts, validating a change requires subjecting the assumptions contained within a Change Canvas to experimentation. Each assumption can be expressed as a hypothesis, which is then tested for correctness. The Validated Change Lifecycle provides guidance to determine which assumptions to validate first, based on the severity of the risk inherent in the assumption.

An Overview of Key Risks Faced by Agile and Lean (or Any) Change Initiatives
Perhaps the most significant risk of any change engagement is one of resistance. Changes that seemingly make the most sense to everybody involved can still face significant and/or passive resistance when change agents try to execute these changes. Organizations and the people that are employed in those organizations possess very robust antibodies that are able to resist any challenge to the status quo regardless of implied benefits.

Even when organizations and people within them have a genuine desire and willingness to try out new methods and techniques such as agile or lean, there's still a question of sustainability. Many Change initiatives start with a bang, and then fizzle out over time. Change recipients become burned out trying to adapt to the new models and new methods of working and change programs become only partially completed. Many Change plan simply did not come to fruition because he not adequately assess how much commitment the organization can actually contribute to the change.

Finally, even when resistance has been adequately dealt with, and the pace of change is sustainable, any upfront change plan may simply specify the wrong solution. If you remember from the beginning of this course we discussed how detailed planning and upfront design is Not suitable for developing products in highly uncertain and variable markets. This is especially true when trying to define a change management solution that changes the way people behave and work within an organization. Change agents expecting any predefined change solution to survive completely intact throughout the lifecycle of the change initiative is facing certain disappointment.

The Validated Change Lifecycle Is Inspired by the Kotter "Eight Steps of Change" Model
John Kotter, in this text "the heart of change" describes an eight step change lifecycle. John describes a number of case studies showing how change agents work within an organization to enact significant change following these steps.

Step number one is establishing a sense of urgency, insightfully, John believes that most people are at least subconsciously aware of what is wrong with an organization and so starting with a target state or vision is the wrong way to go. Instead, successful change agents should focus on establishing a sense of urgency within the organization.

A good outcome from establishing a sense of urgency is finding enough concerned people within the organization who are willing to form a guiding team that is willing to tackle the sense of urgency being felt.

The guiding team then works on a change vision, a "true North" that can help guide the activities of this change.

Subsequently, the guiding team works on communicating as necessary to establish by across all change stakeholders and others impacted by the change

Executives, sponsors and stakeholders are all responsible for empowering action so that the guiding team can make the changes necessary to realize the vision

It is critical that the guiding team structure their change management effort so that they receive wins in the short-term, and not structure their change management activities so that benefits are loaded

The team, and its sponsors and stakeholders have to be careful to approach change in a sustainable way, and not giving up partway through

After the organization receives tangible benefits, effort switches to making sure that change sticks, and becomes a cemented part of the organizational culture

You may have noticed that much of the language and ideas contained within these eight steps are reflected on our change canvas. In fact most of these steps more or less a line to one of the change canvas components
What this means is that each section within the canvas contains assumptions which when validated will mitigate specific risks

When a minimum viable change is broken up into specific experiments each of these experiments can be designed to validate a specific subset of the canvas. Ordering these experiments according to a change management lifecycle allows us to mitigate change risk in the most optimal order.

The validated change lifecycle provides explicit acceptance criteria to determine when a change can move through for specific states
The validated change lifecycle adapts Kotter eight steps of change, into four specific Lifecycle States. This lifecycle was also inspired by Ash Maurya's Lean Startup Product Development Lifecycle described in his book Running Lean.

Minimum viable changes are both defined and validated according to a specific sequence by passing through the lifecycle.

The first state is About Agreeing on the Urgency of why the change needs to take place. Change agents focus their effort on establishing a sense of urgency and connecting that urgency with a set of change recipients who are willing to form a guiding team. This guiding team acts as a set of teams champions for the potential change.

In the second state change agents work with the identified guiding team and change champions to Negotiate the Change solution, develop a vision for the change as well as the target state. The important part here is that is that the solution is cocreated by both the change recipients (s) and change agents

Once the change model has been agreed upon the change is Validated from an Adoption perspective. The key question be answered here is can change recipients effectively change their behavior and improve their expertise in specific methods and skills?

As new skills are acquired, change recipients will start demonstrating new behaviors and new methods. Focus can then switch to whether the change is  verifying performance improvement, we want to ensure that the change is resulting in the right business benefits relative to the commitments required to execute the change.

Instantiating the Lifecycle through a Validated Change Kanban
You may remember that in a previous post we talked about extending a Change Canvas by placing a Kanban system below it to track the lifecycle of specific improvement experiments.

A Kanban system can also be used to visualize the state of Minimum Viable Changes progressing through the validated change lifecycle. As each MVC satisfies the criteria necessary for it to be considered complete within a certain state, it can pass from one column to the next on the validated change Kanban.

Specific acceptance criteria and completion criteria for each state can be marked as a simple work policy under each column within a Kanban system.

This covers my (not so short) overview of the validated change lifecycle, up next I'll provide details on each state within the validated change lifecycle.

Chapter 3: Advanced Change Canvas Topics
  1. Using Plug-Ins to Explore the Urgency and Change Recipient Sections
  2. Using Plug-Ins to Explore the Vision and Target State Sections
  3. Using Plug-Ins to Explore the Actions and Success Criteria Sections
  4. Using Plug-Ins to Explore the Benefits and Commitment Sections
  5. Using Plug-Ins to Explore the Communications Section
  6. a Catalog of Reusable Agile Change Patterns

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