Thursday, October 24, 2013

Managing Change Like a Startup

A major premise of the Lean Change method is that a startup is a good metaphor for a change initiative, and hence can benefit from techniques similar to those found in the lean Startup method
What inspired me and my team to look to the Lean Startup domain to help with agile organizational change?
Organizational Change Is Unpredictable
First of all, if there is one thing that is true about large-scale change initiatives, it is that outcomes are extremely hard to predict. When running a change management program, we are trying to help an organization get to improved business outcomes. We do this by defining a target state and planning a set of change actions. clip_image001[4]
If we are being honest, many of the upfront choices we make concerning our change are really just assumptions. As we execute our change plan, we continually uncover new information about business value, existing capability, current culture, workload, and a variety of other facts. This new information requires us to constantly rethink the validity of our assumptions.
Existing change management methods make it really hard to ensure that our change plan keeps up with our continued learning. Major failure has to occur before a change in direction is considered. As a result, organizations end up with a change that does Not provide the intended value.
Much of the Advice Provided from the Lean Startup Method Can Apply to Managed Change
When looked at from this light, a change initiative can be thought of as a kind of startup . The good news is that a lot of advice exists around how to maximize a startup's chance of success. The Lean Startup method applies lean thinking to the unpredictable world of startups. With a little work, techniques and concepts taken from the lean startup method can be adapted to support managed change initiatives as well. The Lean Change method does exactly this, providing a managed change framework that allows change agents to strive toward success in the face of unpredictability.
As stated previously, many of the tools and concepts in the Lean Change method have been adapted from the the Lean Startup Method to suit organizational change management.
Lean startup inspired techniques covered in this book include:
The Change canvas
Using the Lean Change method we generate models of the future using a holistic, visual approach that emphasize co-creation, prototyping, and re-creation. The folks using the Lean Startup method often create these models using a Lean Canvas or Business Model Canvas. Change agents using the Lean Change method use what is known as a Change Canvas to describe and communicate an agile change plan.
The canvas is an informal "plan on a page", laying out many of the "static" elements found in the Kotter Eight Steps of Change lifecycle. The Lean Change method uses the Change Canvas in two ways. A Minimum Viable Change (MVC) Canvas describes a small incremental change, one that impacts a limited number of employees. While a Transformation Canvas describes an organizational transformation initiative. In most cases, when I use the term Change Canvas, I am speaking about using a canvas to represent a smaller change such as an MVC.. Often the two terms Change Canvas and MVC Canvas are used interchangeably. When speaking about a canvas used to model a larger transformation, you'll see the term Transformation Canvas be used explicitly.
Minimum Viable Changes
The Lean Startup method advocates delivering market facing value in the smallest possible increment. These increments enable learning about whether a particular startup has a sustainable business model, and are known as Minimum Viable Products or MVPs for short.
When using the Lean Change method, change agents are encouraged to roll out the smallest possible change that will enable learning to understand the viability of an agile change program. These increments are known as a Minimum Viable Change, or MVC for short. Again, Minimum Viable Changes are typically modeled using a Change Canvas.
The Validated Change Lifecycle
Successful startups understand that predictions of the future as exactly that, predictions. They thus spend the time to explicitly validate those predictions. Using Lean Change we follow the same mindset. Minimum Viable Changes are introduced to the organization through a Validated Change Lifecycle. We have defined this lifecycle to maximize the change agents ability to accelerate validation of a assumptions behind a particular MVC.
The Validated Change Lifecycle integrates Kotter's Eight Steps with the Meta-Iteration Lifecycle Pattern from the Running Lean book. Using this lifecycle, Minimum Viable Changes are both defined and validated according to a specific sequence.
Change agents start by working with potential change stakeholders to Agree on the the Urgency of why a change is required in the first place. Change agents focus their effort on connecting urgency/problems with a cohort of change participants . The intention is to find change stakeholders who are willing to form the guiding team for a particular MVC.
Next, change agents and change stakeholders collaborate to Negotiate the Change solution, refining what the MVC will look like. The important part here is that is that the solution is cocreated by both the change participants and change agents.
Once the change model behind the MVC has been developed, change participants Validate Adoption is taking place. Focus is on validating whether the MVC is helping change participants to effectively change their behavior and improve their expertise in specific methods and skills.
As new skills, new behaviors, and new capability is demonstrated, change participants then Verify Performance improvement are resulting from the MVC. We want to ensure that the change is resulting in measurable delivery performance improvements for our change participants.
Improvement Experiments
Another key aspect of the Lean Startup method is realizing value through experimentation, supporting activity with a hypothesis, validation, and learn lifecycle, and this has carried over to the Lean Change method as well. As Minimum Viable Changes progress through the Validated Change Lifecycle, change is both implemented and validated by a number of Improvement Experiments. Improvement Experiments have their own lifecycle, each experiment is Prepared, Introduced to change participants, and then provides Learning to change stakeholders. Improvement Experiments are micro, tactical improvement actions that are backed up with a hypothesis that tries to predict the outcome of the improvement.
An example of an Improvement Experiment could be approximately half of the developers within the mobile payment team will adopt basic Test Driven Development as a result of participating in 4 facilitated coding dojo's over the course of a month.
Capability and Performance Metrics
Minimum Viable Changes and Improvement Experiments are validated through measurement. Lean Change provides a number of ways to perform these measurements. Changes are measured primarily from two perspectives. The first perspective is the ability of change participants to adopt, and ultimately excel at new agile and lean methods and techniques. The second perspective is the impact of these techniques on actual delivery performance and value.
Hopefully, I have provided a good summary of the specific techniques and tools that the Lean Change method borrows and adapts from the Lean Startup domain. This should provide some insight into how I have been managing agile organizational change using lean startup thinking and techniques.
clip_image012[4]For more check out the Lean Change Method: Managing Agile Transformation with Kanban, Kotter, and Lean Startup Thinking .


  1. I like this approach but I have to ask....why does everyone with a new canvas put it in the exact same shape as the BMC? It makes no sense. The BMC is shaped that way for a reason. That reason doesn't apply to the lean canvas or to this one so far as I can see.

  2. Maybe we like the design aesthetic ? :)

    Seriously others who are using the method tend to innovate on the canvas and come up with their own layout.

    I used this one because I saw a big parallel in the boxes used by Ash Maury's and the Kotter method our firm uses, so I mashed them up.

  3. I see Jeff`s point and makes sense...

    I perceive the left side connecting Problem to vision through outcomes and success criteria. Hence I infer, it reflects the tactic/strategy to achieve your destination and how you will know you are getting there.
    The right side connects stakeholders to vision through comms and actions. Hence I infer, it reflects the "how/cost" to execute upon the left part of the map.

    Jeff, similar to you proposed product canvas if you would replace Urgency with Needs/problem then it would make perfect sense to swap top-left and top-right around hence you end up with something very close to BMG where partners/change participants + actions + comms + committments are needed to delivery targets+success criteria+needs/problems/urgencies