Why most #agile and #lean #transformation efforts fail

I’ve seen far too many change efforts run into a stone wall and fail to achieve the initial expected results. In simplistic terms, C-level managers who are less than happy with the results they are getting (or not) determine that doing things differently is the right way to obtaining the better results desired. Makes sense logically, but works rarely!

People do the things they do for a reason — their actions are guided by their beliefs that have been formed based on past experiences. For example, I might believe that making mistakes is career limiting because I experienced this firsthand somewhere or saw what happened to a peer who tried to make an improvement and “failed.” Beliefs like this may lead me to value, “avoid risk taking.” Now when you, the Agile proponent, come to me and say, “Alex, I’d like you to experiment and inspect and adapt,” I’m more likely to have a visceral reaction and to write you off. Experimenting might make sense theoretically, but that’s not my perceived reality. And that’s the challenge — asking people to do different things (or things differently) doesn’t work if what you are asking is counter to the person’s existing beliefs and conditioned values.

Successful change happens when the champions of the change attend to the management systems (leaders’ behaviors, expectations, tools, common practices, etc.) and also engineer new experiences that lead to a questioning of the validity of existing beliefs. Sadly, few leaders are good at either.

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