How to avoid the Lean/Agile introduction blues

Introducing a new way of working fails dramatically in most cases. Why? Because we fail to understand that what works in one open system, does not automatically work in another open system.

We all remember moments when we started working in new company or department. We start to work the way we were used to, but learn quick that we need to adapt. We do this naturally and without thinking. In 2 weeks time our new way of working feels natural.

Perhaps a more ‘natural’ approach in an organizational environment works as effective in our personal environment. Unfortunately, our traditional introduction approach is still widely applied. This leads to the ’introduction-blues’.

When I visit companies introducing Lean/Agile techniques, I recognize the same ‘introduction-blues’ as when I supported companies introducing CMMI practices.

When introducing CMMI practices, the most common failure was the way in which the different practices were introduced without understanding the why of the practice, the impact of the practice into existing way of working and the connectivity of the practices with other ‘CMMI-practices’. Because of this, other existing processes were not aligned with the CMMI-related process improvements or CMMI-related process improvements on the same subject were introduced at several locations in different flavors, leaving users in distress.

Introducing CMMI-with-your-eyes-shut is not a successful strategy. The same holds for introduction of Lean/Agile/Scrum or any other new methodology in that manner.

To apply our personal approach into an organizational approach we use a continuous safe-2-fail approach in which we take small steps, learn and then take another step. The successful steps are enlarged, those that fail are changed or stopped.

But how do you now what works and what not? Which are the first steps? These safe-2-fail probes are supported using SenseMaker®. A busy MT is not able to listen continuously to all stakeholders in the system. Building an effective SenseMaker system is crucial. With this tool all stakeholders provide their feedback and signify their feedback. The feedback is generated by short narratives.

The tool provides for effective categorization of the feedback and visualization tools to create a helicopter overview on trends and theme’s. On the same time it enables the decision makers direct access to the narratives, giving them the necessary context to take appropriate measures.

The process steps: 1) bring stakeholders together in a workshop 2) use a SenseMaking method to analyze the present and identify possible next steps 3) construct a SenseMaker system 4) take the first steps and trigger feedback 5) collect & analyze feedback 6) define following next steps.

Using this system, any organization can effectively introduce any new methodology in a step-by-step, cost-effective manner, while keeping all stakeholders involved, happy and more willing to adapt.

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