Skip to main content

Achieving Phase Change: Why is it so difficult to change management

In preparation for the #Stoos Gathering, we have been asking 'Why is it so difficult to change management? While we are not the first to ask the question, it has once again stimulated much discussion (@jurgen's blog, @steve's blog, or on the ScrumAlliance Linkedin group).

Back when the #Occupy movements were getting started, Steve Denning wrote, "What do the occupiers want? Phase Change."
People increasingly sense that things aren’t going to get better unless something big is done, some fundamental change is made in our financial structures. It won’t be small-time rejiggering—a tiny cut in this tax, a minor reduction in that program—that will get us out of this. Like Oliver Twist, they intuit—however incoherently and inarticulately—that we need a phase change, a change in which everything is different.

Phase changes follow patterns regardless of physical or social makeup. They entail a change from one level of order to another. Phase changes are everywhere in nature: from ice to water, from water to steam, from iron to magnet, from seed to flower, from birth to life.

What does it take to make a phase change happen? Energy. Lot's of energy. Let's look at what it takes to change ice into liquid water:

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia
It takes only 1 calorie to raise the temperature of 1 gram (= 1 milliliter) of water by 1 degree C, but it takes 80 calories to transform 1 gram of ice into one gram of liquid water, and the temperature is still 0C! If the water were liquid at 0C, those 80 calories would raise the temperature to 80C!

We have seen examples of social phase change, most recently the Arab Spring. Figuratively speaking, the temperature is still there very cold, and the societies may yet refreeze, but there is now movement in these societies.

And what of management? Most management structures are still pretty inflexible, pretty frozen. But every Scrum team or Kanban project is part of the thaw. Every radical manager is a source of energy, helping his/her company to warmer spring.

Help us catalyze a phase change at the #Stoos Gathering: when have you experienced phase change? What made it happen? And how can we apply that to transform management?

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Scaling Scrum: SAFe, DAD, or LeSS?

Participants in last week's Scrum MasterClass wanted to evaluate approaches to scaling Scrum and Agile for their large enterprise. So I set out to review the available frameworks. Which one is best for your situation?

Recently a number of approaches have started gaining attention, including the Scaled Agile Framework ("SAFe") by Dean Leffingwell, Disciplined Agile Development (DAD), by Scott Ambler, and Large Scale Scrum (LeSS), by Craig Larman and Bas Vodde. (Follow the links for white papers or overviews of each approach).

How to compare these approaches? My starting point is Scrum in the team. Scrum has proven very effective at helping teams perform, even though it does not directly address the issues surrounding larger organizations and teams. An approach to scaling Scrum should not be inconsistent with Scrum itself.

Scrum implements a small number of principles and constraints: Inspect and Adapt. An interdisciplinary Team solves the problem. Deliver something of va…

Sample Definition of Done

Why does Scrum have a Definition of Done? Simple, everyone involved in the project needs to know and understand what Done means. Furthermore, Done should be really done, as in, 'there is nothing stopping us from earning value with this function, except maybe the go-ahead from the Product Owner. Consider the alternative:
Project Manager: Is this function done?
Developer: Yes
Project Manager: So we can ship it?
Developer: Well, No. It needs to be tested, and I need to write some documentation, but the code works, really. I tested it... (pause) ...on my machine. What's wrong with this exchange? To the developer and to the project manager, "done" means something rather different. To the developer in this case, done means: "I don't have to work on this piece of code any more (unless the tester tells me something is wrong)." The project leader is looking for a statement that the code is ready to ship.

At its most basic level, a definition of Done creates a sh…

Five Simple Questions To Determine If You Have the Agile Mindset

My company has started a top-down transition to Scrum and Kanban. Will that make us an Agile company? About 2 years ago, I attended a conference hosted by the Swiss Association for Quality on the topic of Agility. As a warm-up exercise, the participants were given the 4 values of the Agile Manifesto, then asked to arrange themselves in space. How Agile is your company? How Agile do you think it should be? Very Agile on left, very traditional on the right. There was a cluster of people standing well to the right of center. “Why are you standing on the right?” It turns out that they were all from the railway. “Our job is to run the trains on time.” They were uncertain whether this agility thing was really aligned with their purpose.
Is Agility limited to software? Steve Denning has collected the evidence and laid out the case that Agile is not limited to software, nor is it merely a process, nor is it something you can do with part of your time, nor is it something you can have your …