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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 completes the re-read of Paul Gibbons’ book The Science of Successful Organizational Change. If you are involved in change (and everyone is) this book is a must read and a must re-read.  Next week we will feature a review of the graphic novel version of The Goal.  Steven’s final thoughts—

Final thoughts about Paul Gibbons “The Science of Successful Organizational Change”

A Great Reference

I found the quote on the cover to hold true.  “Place it on the bookshelf next to the Halo Effect, Switch, and The Fifth Discipline – in easy reach for rereading.”  Rolf Häsänen

You can use this book to get started with your own new initiatives.

Change Management (so much of the book covers this), but if you want to formulate a strategy to counter the resistance to change, turn to page 226 and re-read table 8.1 – A Holistic Model of Resistance to Change – to classify why people are resisting the change.

A word about Habitual change resistance – remember “Mind the Gap” – the gap between people wanting to change versus the difficulty in actually making the change (e.g., diets!) (more…)

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…)

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)


The Science of Successful Organizational Change

The Science of Successful Organizational Change

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!

Special note – I will publish a poll for the next book early next week soon.  Are there other suggestions?

The current list of suggestions are:

Peter Senge – The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization
Daniel S. Vacanti – Actionable Agile Metrics for Predictability (An Introduction)
Kahneman – Thinking fast and slow
Burrows – Kanban from the inside
Kruse – 15 secrets successful people know about time management
– Tom


This week’s chapter concludes Part III Change Tactics of “Paul Gibbons book “The Science of Successful Organizational Change” (get your copy).

Chapter 8 – The Science of Changing Hearts and Minds (more…)