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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…)


The top five transformation killers are the type of issues that if you even suspect they might, even just maybe, exist you need to stop everything you what you are doing and develop a mitigation plan.    

Round Four: Transformation Killers 5 -1: (more…)

Sometimes you just need to walk!

Change is hard, change is easy, change is scary, change is expensive; change is many things to many people.  Change is many things because people and organizations are complex.  In order to help an organization, transform change leaders have to put down their magic wands and get their hands dirty facilitating lots of moving parts.  Lots of moving parts provide the potential for lots of different train wrecks.  As train wrecks go some are worse than others but avoiding any of them is a worthwhile effort.

Round Three: Transformation Killers 10 – 5:

10. Poor Change Management

Transformations generally require coordination of many teams, lots of money, and careful messaging to many stakeholder communities.  Managing the change is often as important as implementing the technical components of change.  A change management plan (whether a formal plan or backlog items matters less than having a plan) is necessary to communicate, sell and generate useful feedback or the change will be at risk of failing, not because there are technical faults but because the change has not been sold to all of the stakeholders.

9. All Flash and No Substance

Transformations need to address the fundamental issues an organization has delivering value; otherwise, simple incremental process improvement is a better solution.  Addressing fundamental issues requires a real change that includes both organizational structure and behavior.  Just rebranding or relaunching an old way of working with a new name (or new and improved sticker) rarely delivers substantial change.  For example, several years ago I observed an organization during what was making a big deal out of “transforming” to “agile.” To accomplish this transformation, they added daily meetings and a demonstration to the end of each phase in their phased methodology. Lots of flash in the rollout but no substantial change was made.  Putting lipstick on a pig results in a pig with a messy snout.

8. Starting Too Late

I have heard it said that a good near-death experience is a great motivator for change. The problem is waiting for a near-death experience can be … fatal to an organization (or any other group).  As noted in Transformation Killer 18, organizations need a compelling reason to provide the motivation for change, but they should not wait until panic is the driving force or they risk having clouded judgment.  Early in my career, I worked for a firm whose products slowly lost favor with our intended demographic.  Little was done to address the core issue until cash flow began to tighten which constrained the options we had and lead to a poorly thought-out bet-the-farm change.  The firm no longer exists.

  7. Transformation Not Tied to the Organization’s Goals

Transforming a team, product or organization is a tall order. The reason anyone will agree to spend the blood, sweat, and tears required to change how work is accomplished needs to be tied directly to the organization/s goals.  Tying change to the organization goals helps to ensure that support, funding, and people are available when roadblocks are encountered (and they always are).  Perhaps more importantly, linking change to the organization’s goal steers decision making and focuses organizational politics in a manner that will favor the transformation.

6. Poor Leadership

Poor leadership drains energy from the transformation and will tend to metastasize and foster a myriad of transformation killers.  Poor leadership can have many negative impacts.  Impacts range from crushing morale and motivation to generating poor decision making.

The goal of exposing these risks is to facilitate a conversation amongst change agents (we are all change agents) about risk and change management.

Catch-up on transformation killers:

Round One: Transformation Killers 20 -16

Round Two: Transformation Killers 15 – 11

Next Transformation Killers 5– 1

The Science of Successful Organizational Change

The Science of Successful Organizational Change


This week Steven completes  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.  One more week is 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 is the concluding chapter of Paul Gibbons book “The Science of Successful Organizational Change” (get your copy) and this is blog posting is part-2 of Chapter 9.

Chapter 9 – Leading with Science (part 2 – pages 272 – 292)

In part-1, and other parts of this book, Gibbons urges us to move towards science-based management practices and to do that we must have a better understanding of evidence.

“I regard business the way I regard nineteenth-century medicine:  still largely a craft and still reliant upon a great deal of superstition.” (p. 272).

Types of Evidence (more…)


There are four leadership concepts that can double the chances that your agile transformation will be effective. They are:

  1.   Behavior – The values you exhibit through behavior matter more than those you only espouse in words.
  2.    Goal – Goals define where the transformation is going.  
  1.    Self-Awareness – Agile leaders must be self-aware. Self-awareness is having a clear perception of your personality, including strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivation, and emotions. Building on the understanding of self allows a leader to understand other people. Self-awareness is a first step for leaders to put their own baggage aside and to support others.  Change in the workplace is difficult. Being good at conflict management and exposing issues is important for leadership when leading change, but if a leader not good at understanding his or her own cognitive and emotional biases it will be difficult for the wannabe leader to connect with those around him or her and for others to follow. The linkage between self-awareness and transformational leadership is not merely pop psychology.  In recent years the academic literature has empirically established the relationship between self-awareness and transformational leadership.


Sign - Door Blocked!

A locked door is a sign of resistance.

Over the years I have collected a set of questions that are useful to determine whether resistance is festering below the surfaces or is raging out of control (whether obvious or not).  They are a mixture of closed-ended questions, open-ended questions and questions that elicit stories.   A sample of questions that I ask managers and leaders include:

Questions to Leaders or Managers (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.