Monday, January 28, 2013

Making Change Happen

I was delighted the other day to have a brief conversation with Mary Lynn Manns, who is the co-author of Fearless Change, an excellent book on making change happen.
And I told her I had this idea: We can let change happen to us. (This is mostly to be passive in the face of bad change.)  Or we can make change happen (the good change).
This dilemma was expressed by Shakespeare:
Whether 'tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them...
We mean something slightly different.  Not just to oppose the negative changes.  But to advocate for positive change.
It takes guts.
I think, for many, it does not feel like guts. It feels like this: "I have to make this change happen, and I don't care if I get nicked or scratched along the way." The nicks and scratches are a 'small price to pay' the way they feel.
Anyway, we are better people for making the good changes happen.  It makes us better people.
To make it happen, we must be by turns aggressive and patient.  By turns, emotional and thoughtful.  By turns, with laughter and with all seriousness.
How do we make this happen?
Well, this change and we ourselves are the stuff that dreams are made on.  There is no science here. But there are still many good ideas, and some of these ideas have been tried many times.  And in the hands of the professional, they are usually or often successful.
Mary Lynn Manns and others call them patterns.
The first pattern is Evangelist. That would be you.
The Evangelist comes up with the good idea (somehow).  (Hint: I think the first idea to implement is Scrum.)  And then starts to...well, to evangelize. To get others to try the idea.  To help the idea.
A couple of more patterns:
Ask For Help: The Evangelist asks others for help with the new idea. Maybe help defining it. Maybe help implementing it.  Maybe help evangelizing. Also, have you noticed how wonderfully seductive it is to be asked for help.  Who could possibly have more taste, brilliance, and acumen than the person who would ask me for help?
Innovator:  Usually you have in your group some Innovators. Ask them especially for help.  Get them on your side. In part, they are the ones most likely to have a positive attitude toward trying new things.
Just Say Thanks: Again, it is remarkable how a few bits of good manners can get people to go along with a new idea.  Saying 'thanks' for the help can...well, help a lot.
Step by Step: Some of us want to make one big grand change. And be done with it.  But the experience is that it is almost always best done, in some sense, step by step. One smaller change at a time. And they become added together into something quite big.
Small Successes: This is a similar idea, but somewhat different. As you have successes, even if small, be sure to celebrate them.  The small celebrations will delight the change's supporters, and confound its enemies. (Mark Twain said: When in doubt tell the truth. It will confound your enemies and astound your friends.)
In the book Fearless Change, Mary Lynn Manns and Linda Rising have gathered much more detail on these patterns. Indeed, on a total of 48 patterns.
You will find patterns you have done (but probably not done recently).  You will find patterns you have heard of other people trying (but you have never used). And you will hear of completely new patterns.
The main problem is: use one pattern each day.
I think, if you do that, you will win.

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