Sunday, October 6, 2013

Learn If Your Agile Change Will Be Successful through Quick Experimentation

The Lean Change method provides feedback and learning for an agile change initiative by examining two different concepts, Minimum Viable Changes and Improvement Experiments. These two concepts provide a two level, hierarchical feedback loop.

Minimum Viable Change

At the first level, we are introducing various change initiatives into the organization. We try to keep these changes small, so that we can learn through on ground adoption as fast as possible. We also want to make sure that these changes represent enough of a change to validate whether we are heading in the right direction for the overall organization. These units of change are called a Minimum Viable Change.

Minimum Viable Changes are validated through a Validated Change Lifecycle. Based on the John Kotter 8 steps of change, the lifecycle promotes a collaborative, cocreative approach to change.

Using this lifecycle:
  1. a change agent seeks out potential change participants within the organization who can identify with the urgency behind instigating some form of change, so much so that they will agree to become a guiding team for that change.
  2. change agents and change participants co-create a change by negotiating various constraints such as available commitment and potential benefits
  3. the change is then validated to see if change participants are able to successfully adopt and adapt to the new working conditions
  4. Finally, the change is validated to see if improved performance or other outcomes are being realized.
Despite the term used, a Minimum Viable Change can take weeks or even months to get through the entire lifecycle. A quicker feedback loop is required if you want to be able to iterate quickly on feedback provided through learning.

Improvement Experiments

Minimum Viable Changes can be implemented through the lifecycle by decomposing them into a set of Improvement Experiments. Each experiment should only last a couple of days to a week or two maximum.
Each improvement experiment goes through a shorter lifecycle of prepared, introduce, and learn.


Preparation involves just getting ready for the experiment. Workshops need to be scheduled, material needs to be only to be prepared, scheduling needs to take place, etc. The final step of prepare is to rephrase the improvement experiment so that it includes a testable hypothesis.

When we introduce an experiment, we are now working with our chain stakeholders, collaboratively testing our assumptions.
During the learn state, both change agents and change participants assess whether things are heading in the right direction.

The nature of the experiment will vary depending on where a Minimum Viable Change is within the lifecycle. Here are some examples of improvement experiments that could be part of each of the 4 states within the validated chief lifecycle:
  • the online team can identify enough problem statements to provide a clear case for the adoption of agile technical practices after 3 facilitated workshops (agree on urgency)
  •  the portal technology group can articulate and contextualize a more agile working model after 1 week of brainstorming (negotiate change)
  •  analysts who are part of the International Teller Program Will tell me that they can  perform agile style story analysis after 2 weeks of coaching (validated adoption)
  • including developers in detail story analysis will reduce defects by 50% after one month (verify performance)
As Improvement Experiments are evaluated, we can use our learning to validate the Minimum Viable Change they are a part of, updating components of our change, and creating new Improvement Experiments as required.

For more check out The Lean Change Method:  Managing Agile Transformation Through Kanban, Kotter, And Lean Startup thinking

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