The Lean Change Method: 1000 Mile View

Why Lean Change?

There are number of key risks to any change initiative faces, the lean change method is an attempt to provide agile change agent with tools and techniques to help manage those risks.

Perhaps the biggest challenge any significant change faces is one of resistance. A combination of fear, resentment, and simple inertia causes groups of people to defend the status quo. This is especially true when) power, politics, and reputation are in question as is so often the case in large organizations.

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Even when discounting resistance, many change initiatives install due to a lack of sustainability. Many change efforts start with a bang and ended with a whimper. This is because too much change is introduced to people too quickly, and becomes impossible to balance regular everyday workload with the demands of learning new techniques, methods, and values.

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Finally, there is a very real risk that any suggested target state will most likely be wrong. Defining a “correct” target state and implementing it with a “correct” transformation plan often leaves us with a failed change. Running any type of organizational change is often like an act of war, and no plan will survive first contact. Initial assumptions about maturity, commitment, business context, etc. are very likely to be wrong. Following a change plan faithfully could mean that the organization is left with the change that nobody actually wants.

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Lean Change Key Themes

The Lean Change method is an agile transformation approach designed to work in the context of these kinds of risks. There are 2 reoccurring themes that are central to all aspects of the method.

Negotiated Change

The concept of Negotiated Change is critical to the lean change method. He Negotiated Change approach demands that recipients of any change are co-authors and coal implementers of all aspects of the change or transformation that they are part of. Designated change agents, change stakeholders, and change recipients act as change
co-creators, ensuring that suggested changes get the buy-in necessary to ensure that they are successful.

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Validated Learning

Because the outcomes of any organizational change initiative is unpredictable, relying exclusively on upfront plans is an exercise in futility. But the caveat here is that any successful initiative requires some sort of planning. The trick here is to balance planning with a feedback rich learning system that can inform all change stakeholders whether a particular change is working or Not. The lean startup method has been a source of inspiration for applying a concept known as Validated Learning.

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Validated learning provides an innovative way for knowledge workers to create value in a highly uncertain world. In the lean startup world, product developers are asked to describe features, plans, and other components of a sustainable business as a set of un validated assumptions, they are then scientifically validate those assumptions using a scientific method. Assumptions are described as hypotheses, and then systematically tested to see if those hypotheses, true or false.

Lean Change advocates that any change plan and change target state model also be described as a set of assumptions, and change agents and other change stakeholders are responsible for validating these assumptions with explicit hypotheses. People familiar with the lean startup method will recognize many of the components that we have adapted from this method, making them more suitable for organizational change.

Lean Change Requires Kanban (or Possibly Scrum)

Lean Change provides a method for change agents to execute a planned change initiative, but using a cocreative, collaborative, and learning oriented approach. The Lean Change method does not attempt to replace existing agile improvement techniques, but rather it acts as an overlay to help change stakeholders coordinate and guide suggested improvements.

For the lean change method to work it is required that team members adopt their own internal agile improvement method to help them identify impediments and other improvement opportunities. This information can be fed from change recipients into the Lean Change method to help navigate the change initiative.

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Either scrum or Kanban could be used as this improvement method. Most Lean Change implementations that we are aware of have elected to use Kanban as the improvement method of choice, and then eventually evolved to adopting some elements of scrum that matched their requirements. That being said, it would be very interesting to learn about any case studies that elect to use scrum as the agile improvement method of choice to integrate with Lean Change.

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The Lean Change method is a cocreative agile change management and planning approach. Many components of the method had been taken from the lean startup approach, and adapted so that it is suitable for change agents trying to help organizations become more lean and agile.

A Quick Look at the Lean Change Components

Change Canvas

Borrowing a technique made popular by the lean startup community, design and planning is facilitated using a canvas. One of the most foundational pieces of the Lean Change method is the use of a Change Canvas to describe and communicate an agile change plan.

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The canvas is an informal “plan on a page”, and is a technique that innovators have been using to iteratively design and implement new business models and startups. The lean change method uses the change Canvas in two ways, a
MVC canvas describes a small incremental change in data small number of employees, while a transformation canvas describes an organizational transformation initiative. In most cases, when I use the term change canvas, I’m speaking about a smaller change such as an MVC. Often the terms can be used interchangeably, when speaking about canvases used to model larger transformation, you’ll see the term transformation canvas being used.

Minimum Viable Changes

The Lean Startup method advocates delivering market facing value in the smallest possible increments that enable learning about whether a particular startup has a sustainable business model. These increments are known as the Minimum Viable Products or MVPs for short.

In the Lean Change method, change agents are encouraged to roll out the smallest possible change that will enable learning whether a particular change will provide sustainable improvement. These increments are known as a Minimum Viable Change, or MVC for short.

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Validated Change Lifecycle

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 negotiation and learning necessary to creating a successful change.

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Capability and Performance Metrics

Lean Change also provides a number of ways to measure the impact of specific changes. This impact is looked up from a couple of perspectives. The first perspective is the ability of change recipients 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.clip_image024_thumb[1]

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Cadence Model of Suggested Meetings and Workshops to Facilitate Large-Scale Agile and Lean Transformations

Managing a large-scale agile transformation can be challenging, so the lean change method provides a model that suggests different meetings and workshops to handle prioritization, communication, status, and overall communication.

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The Lean Change Method Is Modular, Components Are Usable In Isolation

The Lean Change method is designed to be modular, change agents can elect to use some of these components and ignore the others, For instance using a canvas to co-create a suggested change with change recipients without using the lifecycle or measurement components is a great way to get started with the Lean Change method. Likewise, we have seen change agents create minimum viable changes and follow the Lean Change lifecycle, without using the canvas or using a modified version of the canvas.

I’m hoping that the Lean Change method can be useful to other change agents whether they be consultants, managers, or staff. I will continue to provide details on each one of these components in future posts.
 

Reference: The Lean Change Method: 1000 Mile View from our JCG partner Alexis Hui at the Lean Transformation blog.
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