Organizational Change

Moon and Clouds

Look up!


Every time I see a full or nearly full moon I look for the man in the moon.  To me, the moon – and more specifically seeing the man in the moon – is a proxy measure for a sense of wonder. Regardless of how old or in what walk of life you find yourself in, a sense of wonder makes the day pass more joyously.  A sense of wonder is important to me because wonder helps me to ask questions, to break through cognitive biases, and complacency. Earlier this week as I was doing my early morning run (4 AM) and then later on a walk with my dog and wife, I  marveled at the full moon causing me to reflect back to a 2013 blog entry that reflected a change in how I viewed the world when I realized that I could not see the man in the moon anymore. A slightly amended version of the essay follows. When you are done reading the essay consider whether, when you look up at night, you see the man in the moon or the constellations in the stars.  If you do, let me know why looking up and creating patterns in the sky is important to you.

I enjoy looking up at the night sky and have ever since I was a child.  I saw something special when I looked up this week. The full moon of August 21, 2013 was a blue moon, meaning that it was the third full moon in a season with four full moons. However, when I looked up to see the moon recently, I did not see the Man in the Moon. When did I stop seeing the Man in the Moon? I can remember looking up at the full moon when I was a child to see him. The man in the moon was both a flight of fancy and a goal to be pursued. Once I’d seen it, it was always there. My imagination was primed to see a face on the moon.

Somewhere along the line —after learning of craters and mares, or after buying a small telescope to look at the moon, the planets and the stars — I lost the Man in the Moon. I had become too structured by my newfound knowledge and perhaps too rational to see an imaginary face – no matter how hard I tried. Have I lost the sense of imagination? Have I lost my sense of wonder? Maybe not, but I am troubled that perhaps something innate has escaped, something that needs to be recaptured.

On the next full moon, I am going to study pictures of the Man in the Moon and then go out and see if I can see him. I might just prove to myself that I can see him, but perhaps I can train myself to look more between the lines where imagination lays in wait of discovery. Will my life change by capturing this little piece of my childhood? I don’t know, but I think that being able to imagine and dream – whether it is seeing constellations in the stars, shapes in the clouds or the Man in the Moon — is a talent worth having. I don’t know if I can recapture the Man in the Moon, but I can try to find out.

If you see the man on the moon or it you teach yourself to see the man in the moon, take a few moments to reflect on whether you see anything else in the world around you differently

Link to the original essay.


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SPaMCAST 480 features our interview with Paul Gibbons.  Paul and I had a wide-ranging discussion that began with his wonderful book The Science of Successful Organization Change (Buy a copy now and then enjoy the re-read we held on the Software Process and Measurement Cast blog), and led us to the broader conversation: that change is hard but it is even harder if we fall prey to magical thinking.

Pau’s bio:

Paul Gibbons is an author, speaker, and consultant. His “beat” is helping business leaders use science and philosophy to make better strategic decisions, implement change, innovate, change culture, and create workplaces where talent flourishes. His most recent book, The Science of Organizational Change has been hailed as “the most important book on change in fifteen years.”

Between writing projects, he consults, coaches, and speaks with businesses such as Microsoft, Google, HSBC, KPMG, and Comcast.

Paul’s Website:


Facebook – Paul Gibbons (author)

Twitter – @paulggibbons

YouTube – Philosophyfirst

LinkedIn – Paul G Gibbons

Paul is a podcaster! His podcast, Think Bigger, Think Better asks the question How can contemporary philosophy and science help us make better choices, lead better lives, and create a sustainable, prosperous world? Check out Think Bigger, Think Better on Apple Podcasts or where ever you get your podcasts!

Re-Read Saturday News (more…)

Transformation Killers Can Create Destruction.

Change that isn’t perceived as wildly positive is not exactly the easiest thing to convince people to participate in.  The problem isn’t that people and organizations can’t change, but rather that change efforts are more often than not screwed up.  We continue the top 20 transformation killers in order of worst to first.  Recognize that even the least of the transformation killers can stop change in its tracks.

Round Two: Transformation Killers 15 -11: (more…)

Transformations Aren’t A Safe Place


Organizational transformations have been around since two people got together to cooperate for any length of time.  Mentally I can see Neanderthals changing their approach on a hunting expedition.  In today’s terms organizations reorganize, they embrace agile or they pivot.  Those are just a few terms and phrases that describe organizational transformations.  While our forebearers may have understood they were transforming the term, organizational transformation has only lately become a thing.  Google’s NGram viewer shows the startling rise in popularity of the term ‘organizational transformation’.

Organizational Transformation

The popularity of the term is a reflection of the perceived need to radically change how and what we are doing.  The term ‘transformation’ evokes large scale, rather than continuous tweaks to your product or service.  Large-scale changes are risky and often fail.  Reflecting on changes ranging from CMMI deployments to Agile transformations, I have observed that transformations fail for a myriad of reasons.  The following list identifies 20 of the most nefarious transformation killing culprits.  Even though in reverse ranked order none of these are good. (more…)

The Science of Successful Organizational Change

The Science of Successful Organizational Change

This week Steven dives into Chapter 9 of Paul Gibbons’ book The Science of Successful Organizational Change.  Chapter 9 is the capstone of the book putting all of the pieces parts together.  Steve is tackling Chapter 9 in two parts.  Two more weeks are left in this re-read.  Remember to use the link in the essay to buy a copy of the book to support the author, the podcast, and the blog!


Chapter 9: Leading with Science (Part 1)

Chapter 9 is the concluding chapter of Paul Gibbons book The Science of Successful Organizational Change (get your copy) and because this chapter is so idea-rich, there will be two re-read postings.

Three more weeks for this re-read remain (this week, Chapter 9 – part 2, and concluding thoughts) remain.

Chapter 9 – Leading with Science (part 1 – pages 255 – 272)

The previous chapters have all been building-up for Paul Gibbons masterful conclusions and call-to-action.

Moving Management Practices to a Science

Gibbons call-to-action – “we must start a scientific revolution inside businesses that lead toward practices that have a basis in science.  The craft of business leadership today pays too little attention to the science of how humans tick and too much attention to folk and pop psychology.” (p.255).

Gibbons urges us and guides to evolve leadership, inside businesses, to a science-based discipline much like the discipline of medicine has evolved over the last 150 years.

Gibbons paints the picture of how a science-based leader might perform with 4 scenarios (p. 256); two of these scenarios hit-home with me.

Scenario 1

The project is over budget and late; the leadership council recommends (and agrees) to continue the project.  The project budget and schedule can be recovered by reducing rounds of user testing and stakeholder engagement.  (I know, this scenario really sounds far-fetched – ha!)

The science-based leader (you), comes in with a different perspective and course of action …

“You demur knowing that escalation of commitment is a powerful motivator, that risk-seeking behaviors multiply when projects are behind schedule, and your colleagues are especially prone to groupthink because of loyalty to this director and have reputational interest having approved the initial budget.” (p. 256)

The new course of action is the sunk cost bias is arrested, along with other biases and fallacies, and the project is canceled.

Scenario 2

Agile Innovation or, as I call it, an Agile Transformation – proposal for a 3-day training program involving ~2,000 of the organization’s workforce, from a highly respected agile trainer.

Questions from a science-based leader (p. 256) include …

  1. “what is the program apart from theory
    (i.e., is there any data about the benefits claimed;
    and another related quote (p. 257)
    – “As scientists facetiously say, ‘the plural of anecdote is not data’”
  2. “are there behaviors, how will they transfer to the workplace
    (i.e., use change management techniques and get specific)
  3. “how you will measure the behavioral and financial benefits
    (i.e., success criteria)
  4. “what will be done to support managers attending in breaking old habits and forming new ‘agile’ ones”
    (i.e., breaking established habits is hard, even if the person wants to)

The final “that is”, let us not embark on this agile transformation training program because most of the industry is doing that, including some key competitors.  Let us figure out what we should expect from the agile transformation training program and a way forward the makes the change more likely to be successful.

What is Science?

“If science is not a corpus of indisputable facts, what is it?  It is an experimental, social, learning process for creating and revising a specific kind of knowledge about cause and effect.” (p. 260)

And I will add a business-pertinent quote outside this book: “A part of good science is to see what everyone else can see but think what no one else has ever said.”  Amos Tversky (taken from the “Undoing Project” by Michael Lewis)

Science is the process of discovery and validating your hypotheses.  In product development, that typically means finding out with more certainty the features customers/users will value and use.  And discovering this information in Lean Startup fashion, before you fully build-out the product feature.

Gibbons presents a variant of W. Edward Deming’s PDCA (Plan – Do – Check – Act) science-based learning cycle in the form of “Observe – Hypothesis – Test – Revise”.

Gibbons found an excellent quote from Winston Churchill to sum-up the experimental / learning cycle approach and mindset –
“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm” (p. 272)

This Book’s Main Graphic

We see the “Harmful/Useful | Invalid / Valid” graphic once again (p. 264).  We first saw this in the Introduction (week-2, p. 10) and again in Chapter 6 (week-8, p. 163).

Showing 4 quadrants

  1. Ideas/practices that are Invalid and likely Harmful
  2. Ideas/practices that have NOT been validated but probably Useful (and in wide-spread use)
  3. Ideas/practices that are Valid and Harmful <- stay away and learn to avoid
  4. Ideas/practices that are Valid and Useful <- of course, this is what Gibbons is pushing for as science-based leadership

Antiscience and Pseudoscience

Gibbons revisits another topic from Chapter 6 – antiscience and pseudoscience – “Primum non nocere.”  (First, do no harm.) – Hippocratic Corpus (p. 265)

The one anti-science example Gibbons writes I found very interesting was about Steve Jobs and his strong diet belief of fasting and juicing that Jobs carried over to fight cancer, despite the science-based advice his doctor friends were giving him.  The diet beliefs that served Steve Jobs well in normal health, did not serve him well when fighting cancer.

Gibbons makes the point that we can save money by using evidence-based findings/mindset.  I agree.  But even evidence-based research and findings are fraught with challenges as you can learn listening to the 3-part “Bad Medicine” series from Freakonomics radio (  Gibbons wants Management Science to become more like Medical Science – at least, current medical practices have moved away from the pseudoscience practices.

Summary of Chapter 9, part 1, which includes pages 255 – 272

  1. The book’s major theme is discussed, moving current management practices to practices based on science
  2. Gibbon’s presents four scenarios of what a science-based management practice might be like.
  3. Science is about learning and evolving knowledge.
  4. Target management practices that are both useful and validated.

Next week:  Chapter 9, part-2 (pages 272 – 292).

Two-weeks:  we conclude the re-read of “The Science of Successful Organizational Change” by reflecting on the book as a whole.  And I am sure Tom Cagley will have some thoughts to share also.


Previous entries in the re-read of the book The Science of Successful Organizational Change (buy a copy!)

Week 1: Game Plan

Week 2: Introduction

Week3; Failed Change

Week 4: Change Fragility to Change-Agility

Week 5:  Governance and the Psychology of Risk

Week 6: Decision Making in Complex and Ambiguous Environments

Week 7: Cognitive Biases and Failed Strategies

Week 8: Misunderstanding Human Behavior

Week 9: Leading with Science (Part 1)


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SPaMCAST 459 features our essay on resistance.  Organizational change is a common, almost ubiquitous, feature in today’s business world. Change is known under many monikers ranging from transformation to creative destruction.  The variety of names is a portent to the one constant in any organizational change: resistance.  Some resistance is inevitable, even if everyone is involved in the plan.Organizational change will always foment some degree of resistance that unless recognized can fester and lead to failure. This essay will help you find and mitigate the risk of resistance!

The second column this week is from Gene Hughson and his Form Follows Function column. Gene discusses his essay titled Innovation, Intention, Planning, and Execution. One of the gems Gene delivers in our discussion is that effectiveness requires reasoned, intentional action. While we might all agree, why is it so hard to remember that when push comes to shove in a project?

Jeremy Berriault brings his QA Corner to the cast in order to discuss testing packages.  Jeremy weighs in on whether testing a package is any different than testing any other piece of code.

A promo for 2017 Agile Leadership Summit:

Mark your calendar for an entirely new class of business conference. More “business theater” than conference, the 2017 Agile Leadership Summit (September 22nd in Washington, DC) is sponsored by AgileCxO ( It features an integrated mix of six vignettes on Agile leadership, two fantastic industry keynotes, and onstage jazz musicians who are demonstrating agility, iteration, and excellence throughout. Learn more at

For other events, SPaMCAST team members will be attending check the recent blog entry titled Upcoming Conferences and Webinars!

Re-Read Saturday News

This week Steven dives into Chapter 8 of Paul Gibbons’ book The Science of Successful Organizational Change.  Change is a central activity of every organization.  Three more weeks are left Steven intends to spend two weeks on Chapter 9 and then we will have a grand finale.  Remember to use the link in the essay to buy a copy of the book to support the author, the podcast, and the blog! (more…)

The Science of Successful Organizational Change

The Science of Successful Organizational Change


This week Steven dives into Chapter 7 of Paul Gibbons’ book The Science of Successful Organizational Change.  Change is a central activity of every organization.  How changes happen is not as straight forward commanding that change happens.  No one likes to be changed or manipulated.  Self-organization maximizes the impact of change but alas no change is like waving a magic wand.  Remember to use the link in the essay to buy a copy of the book to support the author, the podcast, and the blog!

Special note – we at 3 or 4 weeks from the end of this re-read.  I will publish a poll for the next week soon.  Are there suggestions?

– Tom

“The Science of Changing Behaviors”, under Change Tactics, is the subject of Chapter 7 in Paul Gibbons book, The Science of Successful Organizational Change (get your copy).

Chapter 7 – The Science of Changing Behaviors

Gibbons states an obvious, but often overlooked, maxim about change to begin Chapter 7 –
“Major change requires behavioral change” (p. 189) (more…)

The Science of Successful Organizational Change

The Science of Successful Organizational Change

This week Steven dives into Chapter 6 of Paul Gibbons’ book The Science of Successful Organizational Change.  Section III, which we begin today has been a tough read for me.  There are a lot of techniques that I see used on a daily basis that are based on pop psychology. Confronting the true believers is often a lot like jousting at windmills.   Remember to use the link in the essay to buy a copy of the book to support the author, the podcast, and the blog!   – Tom


This week we begin Part III, Change Tactics, of Paul Gibbons’ book “The Science of Successful Organizational Change” (get your copy).  Part III consists of an introduction and four chapters. We review the intro and Chapter 6 in this week’s re-read.

Part III Change Tactics

In Part II, Gibbons explains the difference between strategy and tactics – “strategy properly focuses on goals and not how to deliver those goals” (p. 71) Tactics define the how’s. (more…)

Yield Sign

Don’t Yield to Resistance!

Change and its mirror image, resistance, is ubiquitous in the workplace.  The reasons for resistance are varied; they are driven by the business context for the change, the baggage each person involved in the change is carrying, and the macroeconomic environment.  Passing aside the “I just don’t like you” rationale for resistance there are many more actionable reasons for resistance. Some reasons people resist change are obvious (at least after examining how people are behaving) and some are less obvious (but still potent) without significant digging.  Some of the more pernicious reasons for resistance are: (more…)

Resistance to the heat is futile!

Organizational change is a common, almost ubiquitous, feature in today’s business world. Change is known under many monikers, from transformation to creative destruction, and the variety of names is a portent to the one constant in any organizational change: resistance. Resistance is defined by Changing Minds as the action taken by individuals and groups when they perceive the change that is occurring as a threat to them.  Resisters come in many forms, including: * these are listed from the most problematic to least.

Naysayers – There are those in most organizations that have never met an idea or change that they like.  Naysayers will go out of their way (perhaps even habitually) to express negative or pessimistic views.  Naysayers don’t need a specific reason to be negative or pessimistic . . . they just are.  Naysayers are typically a cancer on an organization and need to be removed.

Enemies – Organizations are political environments.  Every change has to have a sponsor and there are often factions within the organization that are actively or passively struggling against the sponsor and her/her ideas.  Change programs are often large and important enough that a failure can severely negatively impact a career.  Leveraging the appropriate change sponsor is often needed to ensure that the proper pressure is provided to dampen internal political objections.

Indirect or Passive Aggressive Resister – The great O’Jay’s song “Back Stabbers” illustrated this form of resistance perfectly.  

(They smile in your face)
All the time they want to take your place
The back stabbers (back stabbers) (AZLyrics)

Use public commitments or public signing events to get the indirect or passive aggressive resistor to commit to the change even more openly.  Your goal is to increase the price they pay for resisting behind your back.

My Way or The Highway Resisters – This class of resister is not anti-change; rather they are for change if they are championing the idea and against if it is someone else’s idea.  Find a way to incorporate this type of resister into defining or implementing the change.  If they accept the role they will have to accept at least partial ownership of the change.

Committed to Current State Resisters – One the statements most often heard when discussing change is “we always do it this way.” There are many reasons people might be committed to the current process, ranging from fear of change in the organization’s social order, to lack of personal competence.  Diagnose the reason for the resistance and determine if the reason can be addressed.  People in this camp will be fairly easy to identify (they generally are not trying to hide), and can be leveraged to find the holes in new processes. Just be ready to hear why what is being proposed is not what is done today.

Not Convinced – This class of resister is often a reflection of a change program that has poorly communicated the rationale for a change and/or the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) component of change management. People truly in the “not convinced” category can be converted by personal interaction and communication.  Do not assume that communication and change management programs tailored to convince people will work for everyone. Say things many ways and many times!

While the Borg might believe that resistance is futile, no one has told the population of most organizations.  Resistance is inevitable.  Recognizing why it is happening starts by understanding who is resisting, but then has to get into the weeds.  The big idea here is that knowing the type of resistance you are facing is just step one of tackling a longer and more difficult problem.

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