Mastering change shouldn’t mean having to choose only one model

October 7, 2015 By Ro Gorell

I instinctively knew this from my own experiences of working in change programmes. Yet we are taught that mastery requires us to become expert in one model and then replicate that expertise time and again. The thing is that all organisations are unique – yes, they may have similar characteristics but the combination and degree of those characteristics is different. Therefore, why would one size change model fit all?

And let’s be clear, when I say model it includes methods, methodology and tools – in fact any resources you use to introduce change. It’s easier to say and quicker to type. So don’t get hung up on semantics, focus on the essence – the ‘how to’.

Back in June this year I participated in a Lean Change Management workshop. Having worked in Business Improvement I had knowledge and know-how of some of the Lean tools and was a fan of Deming. I therefore had a good idea of what to expect. I was excited to find out more about what my instincts and experience had taught me about change: it's an iterative process and can sometimes be messy, often going off plan.

Lean Change takes plan, do, check, act (PDCA) and morphs it into something nimble and elegant: insights, options and experiments - that you prepare, introduce and review. By thinking of change initiatives as experiments it opens up the organisation to perceiving change as opportunities for improvement and growth. In other words, true continuous improvement.


Current state or current reality. You can use any assessment tools at this stage for example, focus groups, surveys or any other means of your choice


These are the potential solutions waiting to be evaluated. Options have a cost, value and impact associated with them – this process is about deciding which to turn into minimum viable change initiatives.


Most organisations shy away from the concept of risk – and the word experiment can sometimes be a bit confronting. The reason they’re called experiments is that until you have data the likelihood of success cannot be determined. So think of this as application of ideas – almost like an ideas lab. The sub-process for these experiments is prepare, introduce, review


Each idea has a hypothesis built on your insights. There are many ways to create hypotheses and one of the simplest is to think of cause and effect. For example, in choosing this option I predict when the “change” happens it might create this “impact”. Naturally you would add in the relevant change and impact related to that particular hypothesis. Then answer the question: How will I know? Your answers to this question become the measures that will tell you if your hypothesis is proved, or not!


This is your plan to implement your idea. This ‘plan’ will be posted on the canvas (Kanban) for everyone to see and comment on. In Lean, Kanban is a picture or graphical representation of what you are doing. Think of a process map and you’re on the right tracks. At this stage you don’t want to make too many changes otherwise it might interfere with testing the hypothesis. In effect the plan has to reach fruition before you test back against what you were expecting.


This is where you check back against your original hypothesis. Did the idea as implemented achieve the expected outcomes or did something else happen? The results can either be positive or negative. The key is that you review data and then act according to what the data is telling you.

​Emergent change

This iterative process is a great way to view any change activity as part of the whole system. And it means you can adjust your change journey accordingly. In this way you can challenge the myth that most change fails to achieve its stated objective. Adjustments to the ‘plan’ can be more emergent based on experimentation and data.

Returning to my first point about following my instincts. In all of the change work I’ve done, the Lean change process has essentially been the process I’ve followed. Perhaps not exactly to the letter but broadly the iterative steps of insights, options, review cycle.

One particular programme comes to mind where I was keen to understand benefits that might be derived from the change. To do this I introduced a process around benefits discovery that I pre-framed as a new concept so that everyone knew up front they were experimenting.  Although I didn't use the word experiment.  What emerged from the process was the discovery that there were high expectations of what benefits the changes might bring. There was broad agreement on what was wanted and few disadvantages outlined i.e. the downsides or unintended consequences of the benefits.

This experiment gave insights about the solution proposed. It led to the realisation that no single solution was capable of deriving such wide sweeping benefits with so few disadvantages. In other words, expectation management was the order of the day – and so started the next experiment!

​Create a framework not a straightjacket

This elegant and flexible process frees you from choosing just one model. Co-created change can sometimes be confronting because it goes against our natural driver for certainty and control. By introducing experiments it places that driver under pressure. In Lean Change certainty is created by following a process for experimentation – in other words creating a framework.

You also take others with you on the journey because the process is transparent. Using a big wall size canvas for data to be captured creates a shared and highly visible means of communicating and creating feedback on the transition process as it happens. Because it's co-created it places emphasis on feedback - both from the people experiencing the change and from the change system itself.

​Mastering change is about having confidence

Mastering change becomes more about freedom of choice and confidence in the change system you’re creating. You can choose experiments from a range of different models knowing that the co-creation process will provide the feedback you need about what works and what doesn’t work in your organisation.

The great thing about bringing all of your change tools together in one place is that you create your own system for change itself.

What models could you incorporate into this simple process? Share your thoughts below.

© Ro Gorell 2015


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