Resistance to Change, What Resistance?

David Anderson, @agilemanager on Twitter, is a thought leader in managing effective technology development. He leads a consulting, training and publishing business at  David J, Anderson & Associates. David may be best known for his book, Kanban: Successful Evolutionary Change for Your Technology Business.

David takes an evolutionary approach to change. An excerpt from next weeks podcast with David:

The whole Kanban thing really came about from the challenge of people resisting change. I was looking for ways of pinpointing root causes of problems. I found that introducing a full system where we’re limiting the work in progress, was a way of addressing quite commonly occurring problems. Problems with committing on something too early, making commitments where there was a great deal of uncertainty.

Kanban BoardSo under conditions of uncertainty, people were committing too early, and a Kanban system was a way of deferring commitment until much later, Lean people might say, “the last responsible moment.” And also controlling a lot of the variability in the flow of work through the limiting of work in progress, the understanding of different types of work and different classes of service and setting capacity allocations for those, controlling interruptions and disruption.

Eliminating the uncertainty and delaying commitment until later, the net result is much more predictable delivery. Those problems were commonly occurring, so implementing a Kanban system was like a point solution for an incremental improvement. And then, from that, we discovered that Kanban systems catalyze further changes. They provoke conversations about other problems, and we get this evolutionary change emerging.

Kanban has been a lot about perhaps not managing change but trying to avoid biting off too much change. And, in general, I’ve felt that there’s been a problem with organizations, executives particularly, the corporate magpies, they get excited about shiny objects, like new process solutions that promise a nirvana of projects, correctly prioritized and delivered on time, within a very reasonable budget and perhaps ever shrinking budgets.

They go after these exciting sounding results, often trying to achieve too much too soon, and their organization just doesn’t have a capability to absorb and manage all the change that they desire. They really want the outcome, but getting there is beyond their capability.

A word cloud from the upcoming podcast:

David went on to say:

I’ve realized that I want to focus my own business a lot more on “How can we help you manage change?” rather than “How can we deliver you a new process solution?” because I often feel the existing process probably isn’t that broken. Understanding how to tweak around with it and introduce change in a sustainable way is much more likely to deliver success. It will have a higher success rate, higher chance of a successful return, rather than pursue the shiny object and see it crash and burn.

David has recently teamed up with Bob Lewis (Bob is a prolific author, his latest book is Bare Bones Project Management) to present a 2-day workshop on Business Change Management. This will include topics specific to Agile and Lean transition initiatives. They examine the source of organizational resistance to change, describe the seven components of an effective business change management plan, and show how to go beyond a “Managed Transition” to achieve both Evolutionary Change and discontinuous, “fork lift” change. More information on the workshop can be found at Business Change Management..

Workshop Dates:

  • Washington DC – October 29-30, 2012
  • Los Angeles, CA December 3-4, 2012

Past encounters with David:

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