How to Make Change Stick

We are the Super-Stickies!

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Our Vision for the retreat:

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Initiating Change

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The first step we do when initiating Change is to define a Goal.


Bottom up: Teams define an improvement Goal in their retrospective. If necessary, the SM helps to communicate and solve the Problem outside the Team.

Top down: The Goal is defined by the Management. The SM helps to communicate it to the Team.

In our experience, a Goal is usually defined relative to a Problem with the current Status. A “sense of urgency” (see Kotter) is established to remove the pain. However, it should also be possible to initiate change and continuous improvement without a painful Problem, but with a desirable Vision.

Different types and states of change

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The type of change depends e.g. on the size of the Organisation and the urgency of the Situation:

  • disruptive vs. evolutionary change
  • top down vs. bottom up change

Many people prefer Kanban to Scrum because they regard it as less disruptive. However, Scrum can also be introduced in a non-disruptive way.

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Alignment vs. Compliance

With alignment we mean a way to have self-organizing teams move in the same direction. With compliance we mean organizational rules imposed on the teams, that limits the space for self-organization. Compliance may imposed externally (e.g. medical product development) or internally (e.g. usage of common frameworks, tools, security rules). One way to come up with common rules is to have communities of practice define these rules.

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A minimal set of rules consists of the usage of iterations, a Definition of Done and Team self-responsibility. This can be used as a starting Point, and an agile process, Scrum-like process will emerge. This way we have minimal compliance and maximal authority.

Another way is to start with a framework like Scrum.

As the need for alignment is different depending on the conditions, it might also change with time. E.g. a traditional organisation might have to reduce alignment to become more agile. A startup might increase alignment when it grows.

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How to measure Change

Measuring starts with a measurable (SMART) Goal. Metrics can be derived from the Goal. The Status of the Change must be transparent to the Organisation. Actionables have to be considered and open questions to be answered.

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For the measurement, a loop similar to the Build-Measure-Learn or Plan-Do-Check-Act circle can be used. Change should never be “done” – we want continuous improvement.

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Here is Stuarts summary of our work:

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References and recommended reading:

  • John P. Kotter, Leading Change: describes 8 phases of change, see also The 1st one is “Creating a sense of urgency”, the last one is “incorporating change into the culture”. Sounds familiar ;-)?
  • PDCA: Plan-Do-Check-Act, see e.g. wikipedia. The Act phase is often misunderstood as the one where 1st action is taken. Instead, it is the part where thinks that were successfull after the Do and Check are rolled out or standardized
  • John Shook, Managing to Learn: Using the A3 Management Process: uses a practical example to explain the A3 process this is used at Toyota for continuous improvement



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