Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Sustainable change

Lately I have been thinking a lot about change management and how to achieve sustainable change. When change is introduced and headed by an external player and that player leaves the scene I have a feeling that many persons regress to the old behavior they had before the change was introduced. On my search for an answer I stumbled across Rober Dilts exploratory model of Neuro-Logical Levels. The model can be depicted as a pyramid, as a travel from a outer abstract level to a inner personal level.

A change at a lower level may, but not necessarily, affect an upper level. But, a change at an upper level will have impact on the levels below it. So for a change at the behavior level to be sustainable it has to be aligned with the upper levels or the change must take place on the upper level.

This suggest e.g. that, if it is not previously aligned with the upper levels, merely changing the physical location of people (environment) doesn't make people perform better (behavior). Telling people to negotiate better (behavior) won't have any affect unless you offer training on negotiation( capabilities). Teaching developers to do testing (capabilities) and demanding unit testing (behavior) won't be succesful when they actually think (values and beliefs) that a developer should develop and a tester should test.

Let's look at an example, management at FactoryY won't accept that the developers do pairprogramming since they argue that they only get half the bang for their bucks. They beileve that development is a mechanic task and that the value produced is restricted by how fast you can type on a keyboard and two developers sharing a keyboard can obviously type less than if each had their own keyboard. Here we must change on the level of values and beliefs and guide management to the understanding that develoment is a creative process not bound by how fast you can type on a keyboard.

And another example, at FactoryZ all the development is done component by component in different organizational units. When you get the assignment of leading a change initiative you quickly realize that the developers at the different units all believe and value cooperation and by grouping them togehter i.e. changing the environment, you can meet the goal of lower time to market by reducing the number of handoffs. The change in productivity will be sustainable since the change in enviroment is aligned with the upper level of values and beliefs. Note that the upper levels were already aligned but it was blocked by the lower level.

Robert Dilts exploratory model of Neuro-Logical Levels seems very powerful and is applicable in many areas e.g. self development, training, teaching, learning, leading change etc. I think I will study this closer.

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