Are you simply on the take?

When we’re in the middle of making change, it can be easy to slip into this notion that the old ways are “bad” and the air of arrogance around being “better” starts to creep in.

But the old ways came about for good reason.  There was a valid problem at the core of why we work the way we do today.  If you don’t understand that then how can you be sure that your new way of working is any better than simply patching over something else?

This week’s video is all about how we make change, without throwing it all out, but instead maintaining respect for the old as we grow into the new…

Video transcript and relevant links

Hey so today I’m right in the middle of the launch of one of my new products which is going to be coming out, which I’m calling Transformation Templates.

I’m super excited about it so I’m about to share all of the templates that I use, whenever I go into a business transformation.  All of the tools, all of the spreadsheets, the way I collect information, we’re putting that all into one tool set and putting it into a spot where you’ll all have access to it!  So, really really exciting and I wanted to just pick up on something that one of the templates specifically addresses.

There’s this tendency when we get into change programs to say, right, I’ve been put in place here to make a change and it’s about getting from where I am today to something that significantly different to what we’re doing.  Often we come up against resistance, and you know people like the familiar, we talk about people not wanting to change you know getting through all that motivation stuff. Sometimes it can be quite easy to get caught up in our own journey, and our own story and so we start pushing through these changes and we can get to the point where we actually start to say no to a lot of things.  

It becomes what I would describe as disrespectful of the current way of working or the current operations because we can see through it, we can see a better path.  So why would you continue doing what you’re doing if you could see this Utopia in the future? And so it can be easy to slip into that space of I guess, playing down what we’ve got that’s existing.

And I wanted to pick up on that and highlight that in any change program, we must come at this from a place of respect for the old.

These ways of working came about, because we were trying to solve a problem.  Somebody probably put them in for a really good reason. That strange process, where we double-triple-quadruple check something was probably put in place for a good reason at some point.  

So when we then go to start unpicking and undoing this and we start impacting the lives of colleagues and our team members, it’s really important that we come to it from a place of respect.  So understanding that, these things may have been put in place for a very very good reason, but actually we’re going to move to something that’s going to be a whole heap better.

One of the tools I use over and over again is this idea of a “give and take planner”.  So whilst we’re taking away something we’re changing the current way of working, what’s the give back?

This became really apparent to me with an executive coming onto a floor of 200 engineers that were in the middle of a large agile program.  So this team built software, they’d moved from wanting to build big projects that lasted 3-4 years and we’d flipped it to fortnightly ways of working and trying to get software out the door much more quickly and this idea of feedback loops and responsiveness and in that process we had dropped a lot of the traditional project management tools including schedules.

And so this executive arrived on the floor, and we walked him around  and I remember him saying to me “But how the hell do I know what’s going on when I don’t have a schedule? How do I.. how do I get..  This is all great. I see people collaborating, I see a lot of energy, fantastic. But I’ve got no idea where we’re at?”.  

It was this moment for me where I realised that just because we didn’t produce a gantt chart anymore – and we as a team had got to this place of “gantt charts are bad, we don’t do them” –  that didn’t take away from the fact that somebody still needed to understand where we were up to. Help me understand progress. Am I heading in the right direction? Is it meaningful? When are we going to be done?

These questions didn’t go away and it was a real joy to be able to take this person to one of our big visual workboards, where we had a whole bunch of post-it notes and coloured cards and things up on the wall displaying I guess like a dashboard, a physical dashboard of where the team was at.  And I talked him through the tool we were using instead of a gantt chart, which was called a burnup chart.

I took him through and taught him how to read these particular tools and explained the trend line and where “finished” happened and those sorts of things.  By the end of it he was really comfortable that he could come back into that space and get the answers he was looking for.

But that example really crystallized for me.  Here’s someone who has a problem to solve, they’ve asked this team to go away and carry out some work, and then in  the process of changing our work method… all of a sudden he’s lost all of those tools that he was expecting to be able to understand whether to or not he was making meaningful progress.

And so turning around to him and saying “well that’s not the way we do things anymore” was actually the same behaviour we were trying to get away from.

So instead, having respect for the old, we understand that just because we don’t use that tool anymore, doesn’t take away from the fact that you still have a problem, or an insight that you’re looking for, and actually, here’s the give-back.

Here’s the way that you get that information in the new way of working.  Here’s how you understand what you’re looking for, and potentially in a much better way than the previous tool.  We hope. That’s why we’re changing right?

So I’ll leave that one with you.  I’m going to go back to some video recording and getting these templates up online, but I hope you have a wonderful day and we’ll see you again next week.

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