Experimentation is a dirty word in many organizations, however, it can be a powerful tool to drive and guide change.  Tammy Gretz shares how she adopted experiments in her practice and how she uses them to change the behavior and culture of people and organizations.

I am occasionally asked why I enjoy meet-ups so much. Meeting people like Tammy is a major part of the reason.  Thanks to the Women in Agile, Cleveland for the great introduction which lead to this interview!  


Guest Post by Diane Davidson

The future of Finance was already changing from your typical accounting, auditing, and control functions, and that was before the pandemic hit in March.  The mantra of “do more with less” has switched to “do better with less,” which has shifted companies to a lens on cost savings.  As discussed in my first post regarding “What is Finance Transformation?” finance managers are expected to act as future-looking business partners and less point-in-time reporters.  The guidance partner’s role is more critical than ever, with the future holding so much uncertainty and leading to spending freezes.  Many companies have embarked on a finance transformation journey with cost costing as the number one objective.


One of the classic change anti-patterns from time immemorial is the pronouncement from on high that “we are going to be  _____” — you fill in the blank. I have seen this pattern repeated over and over across my career.  I will even admit to having been a participant in programs based on this antipattern. Reflecting on pronouncement driven change, I would suggest that most of these changes have no long term staying power. Almost every change in this category declared “done” failed as soon as leadership attention moved on. The force of the pronouncement that “we are agile” was never enough to sustain change. Legitimacy is a critical component for why change programs or transformations flame out or survive after the victory party.


Tugboat in the Chicago River

Tugboats have to be dependable and reliable.

While I was contemplating the discussion of the second of the three core capabilities for teams to prosper after the COVID-19 lockdowns are lifted, I got an email from a friend asking why I did not think the business environment would return to where it was a few months ago. While reading my friend’s email, I got a breaking news text reporting the World Monetary Fund saying they expect one of the steepest recessions on record.  Last evening I read a piece from Goldman Sachs discussing whether the slowdown would follow a V or U pattern (the U pattern will take longer to recover). The experts all agree that the future will be different. In any scenario, there will be dislocations and a new reality; that new reality will require teams to prosper. Teams that focus on an outcome of efficiency, dependability, and effectiveness will have the clearest path. One positive is that all of the core characteristics are demonstrable.  (more…)

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SPaMCAST 582 features our interview with Paul Gibbons.  We discussed his new book IMPACT: 21st Century Change Management, Behavioral Science, Digital Transformation, and the Future of Work (Leading Change in the Digital Age). The interview started by exploring the high-level factors that influence change and then spun down into areas such as the future of work, biases, and de-biasing. This is the second book in the series he began with  The Science of Successful Organization Change which we discussed on SPaMCAST 480. The ideas that Paul shares are thought-provoking and will improve how you think about change.  

Pau’s bio: (more…)

Hall in O'Hare Airport

Guest Post: What is Finance Transformation?
by Diane Davidson

Transformation is the new business buzzword that is being used in the market lately. Some would say that purchasing new software or tool is the first step in a finance transformation program. To illustrate this point, a client had a very manual, labor-intensive commissions process. I met with the team leads to gather requirements and their first requirement was to buy a new commissions tool.  The purchase of a new product is a step in the transformation process but should not be the first step. This is fondly known as the “shiny penny syndrome” or when a company chases a new “shiny” opportunity or tool instead of focusing on the core business practices. (more…)

Tipping Point

Chapter 7 of Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point (remember to stop borrowing your best friend’s copy and buy a copy of the book for yourself!), is another case study. This time we explore the ideas of how tipping points happen by considering teen suicides and smoking. 

Let’s return to the subtitle of The Tipping Point, How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. In chapter 7 Gladwell uses the examples of teen suicide in Micronesia and teen smoking in the United States. The central idea in both examples is the role of permission-givers.  Permission-givers make a concept cool or interesting to a specific group of people through their actions. In the world of 2019, permission-givers leverage a wide range of social media platforms that were not as widespread when Gladwell wrote the book. The proliferation of social media has made the concept of permission-giving even more important to understand. In chapter 2, The Law of the Few, Gladwell described the role of the salesperson; a permission-giver is a specialized form of the salesperson. The salesperson/permission giver provides the connections to the people that can be most impacted by an idea which pushes an idea or activity over the tipping point. Permission is not a general invitation broadcast indiscriminately put a much more targeted communication to, in the case of suicide and smoking, to those that are most vulnerable. (more…)

Tipping Point

This week we continue our re-read of The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. In chapter two, Gladwell dives into the law of the few.  There are three types of people that are important to pushing an idea up to and over a tipping point: connectors, mavens, and salespeople.  All three are required. Remember to dust off your copy or buy a new copy and read along!

People are both the mechanism and the target for anyone trying either to understand why an idea crosses the tipping point or to push an idea across a tipping point.  Knowing who to influence or connect spells the difference between success and failure. Word-of-mouth is an extremely powerful effect, but just passing the information along one person at a time is not sufficient for getting an idea over the tipping point. People pass on all kinds of information all the time but only in rare instances does that exchange cause the idea to go viral. Gladwell theorizes that social epidemics happen because of the involvement of three types of people each with particular of social talents. (more…)


Four Centers of Excellence

I used the term DevOps Center of Excellence to describe a COE that delivers a service to the organization in the essay, Types of Center of Excellence.  This type of COE is a consolidation of the personnel to deliver a service into a group that can be drawn on by other parts of the organization.  Another name or description of this type of COE is a Center of Functional Excellence (COfE). After reading the essay Pete Franklin (@PeteFranklin) tweeted:

Eight Avoidable Reasons Why COEs Fail… via @TCagley – I’ve almost never seen a functioning CofE

When asked his opinion on why that was his experience he responded:

My theory is that the whole model is based on some fundamentally incorrect assumptions. In particular, that skills that exist in one place can be deployed into another team with no losses or issues. The old ‘fungible resource’ fallacy 🙂

I have seen functional COEs work and work well, however, I tend to agree that the seeds to make this type problematic are often present. (more…)


Paraphrasing the definition from Wikipedia, a center of excellence (COE) is a team that provides leadership, research, support and/or training for a focus area. COE’s are deployed for many reasons such as developing an organizational skill, rescuing a troubled initiative, or sometimes sheer desperation.  The reason and implementation path of the COE will impact the perception and value delivered This might seem like common knowledge, but to quote Voltaire, “common sense is not so common.” Done well, a COE can help infuse knowledge and energy into an organization. Done differently, a COE ends up becoming bureaucratic auditors under the flag of best practices. (more…)

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