How Understanding Helps Transitions

March 8, 2010 — Posted by Al Shalloway

Trying to change an organization too fast or to too much tends to result in no change it at all. In fact, attempting to transition a company to a new method can cause an organization to go in reverse: it becomes less functional.

In an earlier blog, How to Affect Change,I discussed this as the balance of the need for change against the fear of change. Extending these concepts, I want to look at the relationship between the amount of change attempted with the effectiveness of those attempts (see the figure below).

When there is not enough attempt at change, not much happens (although you might get a Hawthorne Effect). On the other hand, if you push too much change on the organization, you actually get just the opposite effect you want - productivity goes down. Why? People get frightened of the change, too much is happening and the poor emotional state that results actually hurts the system. One must look for the right amount of change the organization can bear.

This insight into the emotional impact on change is important to notice. When people don't know why they are doing what they are doing, or, if they are not clear about the effect of what they are doing, they are likely to experience more fear than they would if they had such an understanding. Telling people just to "trust the process" typically does not work. We've all had the experience of fear in a potentially dangerous situation being alleviated (to a degree) by understanding something about the situation. For example, when I am on an airplane that is experiencing turbulence and I see the wings bend up and down, my body evokes fear. I have nothing to do with this - it is just a reaction my body has (much like when you change the process people follow - they often have fear). But, I happen to know a fair amount about how commercial airplanes are built and know that it is virtually impossible for weather conditions to rip the wings off of a commercial airplane. I can calm my nerves a little by reminding myself of this. Understanding the construction of planes helps me alleviate my fears.

In the same way, understanding the reason and why of change in their organization can also alleviate the fears individual members may have. If this understanding is not present, the relationship between rate of change and it's effectiveness changes - to the worse - as shown below.

Here we have the same general curve, but not as much positive effect can be achieved and negative effects occur sooner. This is why I actually do not believe in the rote adoption of Shu Ha Ri. While it is true that one must go from following, to detaching, to fluency, some believe this implies that one does not need to understand what / why they are doing in the "following" stage. While this is very true in martial arts (where one is particularly trying to silence the mind) it is not true in knowledge work and should not be misapplied.

Subscribe to our blog Net Objectives Thoughts Blog

Share this:

About the author | Al Shalloway

Al Shalloway is the founder and CEO of Net Objectives. With 45 years of experience, Al is an industry thought leader in Lean, Kanban, product portfolio management, Scrum and agile design. He helps companies transition to Lean and Agile methods enterprise-wide as well teaches courses in these areas.



        

Blog Authors

Al Shalloway
Business, Operations, Process, Sales, Agile Design and Patterns, Personal Development, Agile, Lean, SAFe, Kanban, Kanban Method, Scrum, Scrumban, XP
Cory Foy
Change Management, Innovation Games, Team Agility, Transitioning to Agile
Guy Beaver
Business and Strategy Development, Executive Management, Management, Operations, DevOps, Planning/Estimation, Change Management, Lean Implementation, Transitioning to Agile, Lean-Agile, Lean, SAFe, Kanban, Scrum
Israel Gat
Business and Strategy Development, DevOps, Lean Implementation, Agile, Lean, Kanban, Scrum
Jim Trott
Business and Strategy Development, Analysis and Design Methods, Change Management, Knowledge Management, Lean Implementation, Team Agility, Transitioning to Agile, Workflow, Technical Writing, Certifications, Coaching, Mentoring, Online Training, Professional Development, Agile, Lean-Agile, SAFe, Kanban
Ken Pugh
Agile Design and Patterns, Software Design, Design Patterns, C++, C#, Java, Technical Writing, TDD, ATDD, Certifications, Coaching, Mentoring, Professional Development, Agile, Lean-Agile, Lean, SAFe, Kanban, Kanban Method, Scrum, Scrumban, XP
Marc Danziger
Business and Strategy Development, Change Management, Team Agility, Online Communities, Promotional Initiatives, Sales and Marketing Collateral
Max Guernsey
Analysis and Design Methods, Planning/Estimation, Database Agility, Design Patterns, TDD, TDD Databases, ATDD, Lean-Agile, Scrum
Scott Bain
Analysis and Design Methods, Agile Design and Patterns, Software Design, Design Patterns, Technical Writing, TDD, Coaching, Mentoring, Online Training, Professional Development, Agile
Steve Thomas
Business and Strategy Development, Change Management, Lean Implementation, Team Agility, Transitioning to Agile
Tom Grant
Business and Strategy Development, Executive Management, Management, DevOps, Analyst, Analysis and Design Methods, Planning/Estimation, Innovation Games, Lean Implementation, Agile, Lean-Agile, Lean, Kanban