Change management is traditionally one of the main risks and the main reason for the failure of technological solution implementations in organizations.

Human beings naturally have an aversion to change, to uncertainty, to the unknown, to the loss of the status quo, and this leads us to oppose it, going to the extreme of unreasonably boycotting the engine of change.

Among the main causes of this fight against the change are the lack of communication of the reasons and benefits of the change, as well as the failure to involve the people who will be affected by it in the definition and design of the process and the tools and actions that will be carried out. This is the classic approach to change management. It is approached as just another project, with a plan that has to be fulfilled, an initial scope that is unchangeable and for which the opinion of those affected has not been taken into account, and giving more value to the deliverable and the final milestone than to the continuous change process.

In contrast to this traditional approach, Jason Little proposes a new approach: Lean Change Management. This one, based on agile principles and values as a good follower of the principles of Management 3.0, is based on two main attributes: it focuses on the people who will be impacted by the change, to whom it gives the leading role (people-centric) and makes use of continuous feedback to adapt the change according to the needs of the moment (feedback-driven) the response to the measures that are being taken (called experiments).

Lean Change Management is inspired by agile principles and values, and the Lean Startup framework, proposing a life cycle based on hypotheses or experiments around the change that have to be validated, to learn and thus determine whether to persevere with the change or to pivot and explore alternatives.

  • Insights. The aim is to understand the state of the organization before implementing the change, in order to be able to design it appropriately.
  • Options. These are the possible hypotheses that emerge from the understanding of the state of the organization. Before turning them into experiments, it is necessary to evaluate their cost and benefit, their impact and how they will be received. To do this, involving the people who would be impacted by the change is key.
  • Experiments. The change associated with the selected hypothesis is implemented, once it has been previously evaluated, to see how the organization responds to it, if the expected benefits are obtained, etc. The aim is to learn in order to determine whether the change is valid or whether it needs to be adapted.

Experiments, in turn, have their own life cycle:

  • Prepare. The change is designed with the people who will be affected, before it is implemented. The engagement and their involvement significantly reduces resistance to the change and increases the likelihood of successful implementation.
  • Introduce. The change is set in motion in the organization.
  • Review. The results are analyzed and measured. It has to be checked if the hypothesis is valid, and obtain feedback to continue the cycle.

For each of these phases of the cycle, a series of complementary tools or frameworks are proposed, which are taken from different sources, from traditional change management, behavioural psychology or agilism.

In this way, Lean Change Management proposes the use of ADKAR® to obtain the starting situation for the organization. It is a method used to analyze the current state of the organization, thus being able to assess a priori the risks and the probability of success of a change process. It is based on five dimensions:

  • Awareness, which determines whether the organization is aware of the need for change.
  • Desire, which measures the degree of participation and support for the change process.
  • Knowledge, which assesses whether the organization knows how to change.
  • Ability, which measures whether you have the necessary skills to deal with the change.
  • Reinforcement, which assesses the organization’s capacity to make the change sustainable over time.

Other models he suggests are OCAI or Schneider, which help to identify what type of culture prevails in the organization.

It also draws on two classic frameworks, such as McKinsey’s 7S model, which describes the factors (Strategy, Structure, Systems, Values, Skills, Style and Team) that are interdependent and describes how a change in one of them impacts on the others, and Kotter’s model, which describes the phases of a change process.

The last one describes the following cycle and serves as a basis for exploring what needs to be done to facilitate the adoption of the change and to evaluate the change:

  • Create a sense of urgency, of the need for changing. To do this, involving the people who will be affected or impacted by the change from the beginning is key.
  • Having a good sponsor for the initiative and a team of change agents who will be the driving force for the change.
  • Define a vision of the change, something that inspires and attracts.
  • Communicate the vision, make it transparent and involve people.
  • Remove obstacles that put the transformation process at risk.
  • Generate quick-wins that overcome resistance to change and grow the number of people who believe in the change and its benefits.
  • Work on the change, continuously.
  • Make the change permanent, so that it becomes part of the organization’s DNA in a persistent way.

One of the main keys to success is to identify as soon as possible the set of early adopters within the organization who will support the change. Relying exclusively on external staff weakens the transformation process, as internal staff feel fear and imposition. However, seeing colleagues involved in the process, evangelising and sponsoring it is a positive reinforcement that removes barriers.

Another key is the use of information radiators, making the change management process visual and transparent. It encourages people’s participation, enriches the process, allows for feedback, simplifies resistance to change, and generates more agents of change. This approach makes the process dynamic and participatory, moving from a static, top-down plan to a living cycle in which everyone collaborates and everyone helps to shape it.

Again, as with the introduction of agile approaches in organizations, the fact that the information radiators are physical, at least in the early stages, is very important. Making the information physically visible, touchable, is key.

In conclusion, Lean Change Management proposes a more empirical model of organizational transformation, based on the participation of people and the continuous adaptation of the plan on the basis of the feedback obtained from the experiments put into practice.

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