The Science of Successful Organizational Change

The Science of Successful Organizational Change

The Science of Successful Organizational Change: Re-read Week 2 Led by Steven Adams: Introduction

This week we begin to get into the meat Paul Gibbons’ book The Science of Successful Organizational Change “The Science of Successful Organizational Change” (Remember to use the link to buy a copy to support the podcast and blog).  In this book, the meat starts in the introduction!


Gibbons begins by alerting readers to “Mind the gap,” (p. 2) this is not referring to the London subway, but that gap between people’s intentions (agreeing with something) and people’s actions (doing it).

Gibbon uses two stories to illustrate this “gap”.  A 3 million dollar change study and report that failed to generate action, despite it critical acclaim.  And a personal story about smoking, even though the evidence of the health consequences were (and are) well known. (more…)

A Stack of Business Books


The beginning of July is a good point to take a step back and consider the path of you are on, 2017 is just over half over.  A retrospective of sorts is in order.  Just like any other retrospective, the goal is to change the trajectory of the path you are on.  Changing the path you are on is important even if 2017 has been the best year ever.  As leaders, we often exhort those around us to embrace continuous process improvement as a path to improve our teams or organizations.  Just as important as process improvement is the need for continuous personal improvement.  As a first step towards continuous process improvement, every person should identify the goal they are working toward.  The next step toward that goal needs to be the most important task (MIT) you address every day.  One of my primary personal goals is to not get stuck in a rut and to continue learning.  My most important task, every day is to take a step on the path towards continuous learning.  Planning my day begins with identifying my MIT for the day, whether that is researching and writing a blog entry, recording and editing an interview for the Software Process and Measurement Cast or reading a few pages in a book one of my first tasks begins by checking my MIT off the list. (more…)

Travel outside of your comfort zone helps to establish your beginner’s mindset.

Audio Version:  SPaMCAST 177

Why is it easier for some organizations to innovate? Why do some organizations become less flexible after a new idea is successfully implemented? I believe that the concept of the beginner’s mind holds a substantial clue about why some people and organizations either embrace or resist change.

The beginner’s mind is a concept from Zen Buddhism known as Shoshin.  It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject.  The beginner’s mind can be present even when studying at an advanced level.  Quoting the Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”  The beginner’s mind embodies the emotional qualities of enthusiasm, creativity and optimism.  These qualities are critical for tackling tough problems and for innovation.  The beginner’s mind is just one framework for understanding why some organizations and individuals seems to embrace the boundlessness of the environment around them but nevertheless it is a powerful tool for self-reflection or judging change readiness.

I would like to address the idea of change willingness through the filter of the beginner’s mind from two perspectives: The first is from the point of view of the constraints we accept or create for ourselves and our organizations, and the second would be to reflect on attributes that help us accelerate embracing change. (more…)

This week, we tackle chapter 2 of Holacracy: The New Management System for a Rapidly Changing World by Brian J. Robertson published by Henry Holt and Company in 2015. Chapter 2 tackles why the consolidation of authority is harmful to the ability to nimble, agile (small a), and productive and secondly, why the distribution of authority supports an organization’s ability to scale.  The argument in Chapter 2 is a central tenant of Holacracy.


Chapter 2: Distributing Authority (more…)

Book Cover


This week, we tackle chapter 1 of Holacracy: The New Management System for a Rapidly Changing World by Brian J. Robertson published by Henry Holt and Company in 2015. Holacracy is an approach to address the shortcomings that have appeared as organizations evolve. Holacracy is not a silver bullet, but rather provides a stable platform for identifying and addressing problems efficiently.

Part One: Evolution at work: Introducing Holacracy

Chapter 1: Evolving Organization (more…)

An obituary was written when a queen was interned

In keeping with a slightly morbid bend in storytelling techniques, we add to the premortem technique the idea of a business (or project) obituary.  An obituary is a specialized form of a news story that communicates the key points in the life or a person, organization, event or project. During my college years, I spent time in college radio stations on air both playing music and doing the news (where do you think the podcasting came from? Check out the Software Process and Measurement Cast).  In the newsroom we largely knew how to put together an obituary.  We kept a few critical local celebrities written and ready just in case (in the business, this is called a morgue).  Just like any story an obituary is comprised by a set of attributes.  A typical (simplified) set of components found in obituaries (Chapter 51 from the News Manual – Obituaries) includes: (more…)

Mindset Book Cover

Next week we will complete our re-read of Mindset with a round-up and some thoughts on using the concepts in this book in a wholesale manner.  The next book in the series will be Holacracy.  Buy a copy today and read along!  I have had a couple of questions about why did not do a poll for this re-read.  As I noted last week, after my recent interview with Jeff Dalton on Software Process and Measurement Cast 433, I realized that I had only read extracts from Holacracy by Brian J. Robertson.  I think many of us are looking for an organizational paradigm for Agile organizations.  Hierarchies and matrix organizations have clear and immediate drawbacks.  Holacracy might be one tool to address this problem, which why we will read this book.

One more thing — If you are going to be at QAI Quest 2017 April 3 – 7, please come hear me speak and track me down for a coffee or adult beverage and we can talk shop!  (more…)

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