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Making change happen

As a facilitator I have been helping management teams (often called “leadership teams”) in their retrospectives (..which they like to call “off-site planning day”). There usually is no trouble in finding problems, issues and discussion topics. Also, there is usually no problem in finding solutions — managers are trained to solve problems. And there is no problem to find a responsible person — managers can use their power to appoint someone to take care of business.

However, there is a problem of work avoidance: When it comes to taking action, everyone looks at their feet. Then someone solves the problem by appointing a person who is not present to drive the action. Wow, that takes things forward.

I usually do not allow team to nominate responsible person outside the room. This restriction may lead to situation where, instead of an action, the team creates “action to plan the action”. For example, action “Create a backlog for all project work and manage this queue properly” is diluted into “Call a meeting to decide about backlog process“.

To avoid this problem, I give the workshop team one piece of advice before they dive into action planning: Think of  the biggest sustainable and behaviour-changing actions that you and this group can make happen.

Change (Agile, Lean or whatever) is about changing your daily routines and underlying assumptions & culture. By focusing on behaviour-changing actions the team starts to think their behaviour (e.g. dropping useless meetings or deciding to Go-See every morning). Sustainable means that it not a one-shot action (“Call a meeting”) but rather a change that prevails long after the workshop has been forgotten.

p.s. See also Bas Vodde’s excellent technique for retrospectives: Plan for Action. You can use that together with my advice.

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