More Change Ends Change Fatigue

Need for Change

AgileDevOps. These are new ways of saying more change, more frequently.

Is this good? How could it be?

Not long ago, simply mentioning “more change” would be enough to set off the change-saturation and change-fatigue alarms.

Probably with good reason. Change had come to mean:

  • Continuous, “house-on-fire” urgency just to stay in business, prompting…
  • Repeated, and sometimes simultaneous, gut-wrenching and highly disruptive changes…
  • To replace tightly coupled, monolithic, home-grown, or highly customized, core IT systems using…
  • A waterfall development framework that felt like you were always at the base of Niagra Falls, executing…
  • Multi-year projects with arbitrary milestones and slipped delivery dates, creating…
  • Large-scale, high-stakes, high-risk deployments requiring…
  • Heroic release efforts causing…
  • User-apparent service disruptions…
  • To deliver (finally!) an outdated solution that…
  • Did not meet the users’ needs and…
  • Had already been surpassed by the competition or technological developments, all within…
  • An organization ill-equipped for change that has become…
  • Less willing to undertake the next one and yet is…
  • More in need of transformation.

Who wouldn’t get tired of that?!

In response to these unacceptable outcomes, IT and business managers alike are creating, exploring, adopting, and evolving Agile and DevOps development frameworks–and mindsets–that deliver smaller changes more frequently.

  • Development cycles are shorter.
  • User-demanded features are deployed when ready and as needed.
  • Lower-risk and more frequent releases encourage rapid learning cycles.

More change of this sort, welcomed as the engine of personal and organizational growth, is the antidote for change fatigue.

Thus, the Change Paradox: More change ends change fatigue.



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Change at DevOps Speed

Speed of Change

Technological advances now enable a growing number of companies to release software product updates with previously unimaginable speed and frequency (see below; source: DataKitchen, 2017).

Release Frequency

For project managers and developers, Waterfall has fallen to Agile/Scrum, which is morphing into DevOps (a mash up of “development” and “operations,” two previously distinct organizational functions almost always in separate business units) and Continuous Deployment.

DevOps’ rapid-release methodology encourages experimentation, benefits from accelerated feedback and learning, achieves speed-to-market, creates competitive advantage, and can reduce costs, all while meeting quality, testing, integration, security, compliance and other critical technical and business requirements.

Such fundamental, transformational trends must give pause to anyone in Organizational Development and the many allied professions and practices: HR, staffing and talent management, coaching, organizational change management, leadership and succession planning, learning and development, innovation, Lean/continuous improvement, and many more.

We must reshape our mindsets, learning, structure, culture, policies, and processes (and so much more) with a speed at least equal to that of today’s inexorable customer, market, and technological forces which, tomorrow, will seem slow.

What has been your response to these driving forces?

Or, if your organization is not yet living at DevOps speed, what do you think you must do to prepare?

Learn. Do. Teach. Lead.


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Two Things You Must Know about Transformation


Transformation sounds better than change for some reason.


Transformation may appeal more because of its implied promise of total newness.

And who doesn’t like a fresh start? A makeover? A new beginning?

Maybe transformation even sounds more noble than mere change because of its grand scope and scale–real or imagined.  It lifts the eyes upward; the heart soars, inspired.

A metamorphosis!  Think butterfly.

But if we can set aside any emotionally driven, Disneyesque view of transformation that we may hold, we can observe two wrenching biological facts (get ready):

  1. During the pupal stage of holometabolous insects, which undergo complete metamorphism, adult structures of the insect are formed while the predecessor, larval structures are broken down.
  2. Within the pupa, under hormonal guidance, adult structures grow from imaginal discs.  These discs are present in the larva and, during pupal transformation, grow rapidly, evert, and become distinct structures in the adult.  In a most profound way, the organism starts with the end in mind.

Wow! That’s enough biology to amaze me.

If we think of organizational transformation, the first metamorphosic fact is daunting enough: most pre-existing structures and processes are broken down and replaced during the transformation.

Very few organizations actually contemplate, undertake, or survive such grand and total change.

The second fact, above, is rarer still within organizations, namely, that the elements of the future organization (the imaginal discs in our analogy) are already present within the dissolving entity and will, with the right leadership and guidance (the evolutionarily refined, DNA-driven hormones in our analogy), form a successful new entity in a mature, adult form.


When undertaking transformational change, the sort that nearly completely destroys the existing organization, what CEO wouldn’t be emboldened and comforted knowing, in advance, that the emergent organization would succeed because the seeds of success lie within awaiting expression?

Yet nothing like the predestinating force of evolutionary development exists for an organization.

Could it be that much of what we call transformation is actually a series of more modest  incremental changes?  Or is organizational transformation actual, but more localized, as when IT systems wholly replace legacy systems, enabling entirely new business processes?

What ever the case, let us say transform when we mean it, and let us understand what it means when do.

chrysalis by parkjisun from the Noun Project





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Mindfulness and the Business of Change

Fugio Cent

A parent, guardian or other familial caregiver might have provided your first instruction in mindfulness:

Mind your manners!

Or, often with more raw emotion, a third-grade playmate, shouting:

Mind your own business!

before stomping off in a huff.

A less likely source: the obverse of the first official U.S. coin, known as the Fugio cent, which carries the aphorism, a favorite of coin designer Benjamin Franklin:


None of these phrases might occur to the modern meditator and mindfulness adept, but the concept of attention is fundamental to each and to mindfulness itself.

Pay attention!

(I heard that just today in the grocery store, mother to son, who was dashing off.)

Paying greater attention is exactly what mindfulness awareness coach, Daron Larson, suggested at a recent meeting of the Association of Change Management Professionals (ACMP), Ohio Chapter, in February, 2018, when he spoke on “Exercising Your Attention for a Change.”

Larson asserted that we live in an “attention economy,” a view supported by the dramatic rise in the diagnosis of attention deficit disorder in children.  Increasingly, we live in a society that both demands–and rewards–our attention, creating addictive habits of low, or at least unknown, value.  And as we now know with greater scientific clarity, habits arise because of changes in the brain.

That’s what’s at stake: your brain, your habits, and ultimately, your well-being.

With the conviction and simplifying clarity of a years-long practitioner, Larson offered mindfulness as a “natural capacity for direct, frictionless awareness or real-time sensory experience,” while simultaneously admitting that no definition can describe or substitute for subjective experience and awareness.

Living fully in the now, being fully present in the moment, is your experience alone.

Why is living in the moment so difficult?  In large part, it’s the brain.  As an advanced prediction machine and memory maker, the brain is almost always looking ahead and drawing upon memory.  This is essential to our well being, of course, but this default activity can overwhelm the present moment, which, I think we can all agree, is the only time when we are actually alive.

By learning how to quiet the internal conversation through mindfulness activities, “we switch from narrative mode to experience,” said Larson. “This is what it feels like to be alive.”

But being alive, as it turns out, is not without its difficulties, nor is practicing even very simple mindfulness exercises such as listening to ambient sounds, following one’s breath, or feeling bodily sensations head to foot.  It’s just at these moments when the unschooled noise in our brain, which, for the most part, is just trying to be helpful, arises and we find that our attention has drifted.

Drifting away is not surprising, though often discouraging for new and experienced practitioners alike.  Becoming aware of the drift: that is the beginning of mindfulness.  And returning one’s focus without judgment and condemnation is an act of self-compassion.

“Mindfulness does not solve problems, it makes you a better problem solver,” said Larson, who went on to suggest that we can learn how to experience difficult feelings without making them worse.

For the organizational change management practitioners in the audience, this seemed to resonate.  Change can be difficult.  Unwanted.  Uncomfortable.  Untimely.  Convincing others that they should think or feel otherwise seems futile and can actually increase resistance.  But by allowing discomfort to simply be, with mindfulness practice and attention, we can be less disturbed and better able to act in the moment more authentically and beneficially.

“I do not practice mindfulness so that I can be better at sitting on a cushion in a quite room,” said Larson.  Mindfulness is not for those special moments, but for every moment.







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Just What is OD?

Editing MarksThe following definition of Organizational Development has been around since at least 1969:

Organization Development is an effort that is:

  • Planned
  • Organization-wide
  • Managed from the top
  • Increases organization effectiveness and health
  • Through planned interventions in the organization’s “processes,” using behavioral-science knowledge.

(Bekhard, Richard. 1969. Organization Development: Strategies and Models. Reading, MA : Addison-Wesley.)

Served us well for almost 50 years? No doubt.

But when I wondered if it could be refreshed, the copy editor in me emerged:

Updated OD Definition

Here is the revised definition without the editing marks (and a few additional edits on the fly):

What is Organization Development?

A change leadership strategy, model, and method that is

What do you think?

If this inspires you to edit, sharpen your pencils!

Learn. Do. Teach. Lead.

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There Is No “I” in “Team”?


There is no “i” in team? Of course there is.

What first-person pronoun might any team member use?  How about me, myself, and I?  If that troika is not on your team, please tell me who is.

With respect to “me,” organizational change management practitioners are advised to

… clearly articulate what is changing, how the change benefits or affects the organization, and how the change affects him or her individually (often referred to as “What’s In It For Me”). If people see progress they can relate to, then they are more likely to continue the change effort and help to reach the future state and sustain the change.  (ACMP Standard for Change 5.2.1)

Prosci puts it this way:

Making a change is a personal choice, no matter what senior leaders believe. Communications about change must resonate. To be effective, communications must get at what an employee cares about and values. To gain their support, you must provide a compelling case for how they will be better off or what they get out of engaging in the change. Answer WIIFM (what’s in it for me?) early and often in your communications. (Prosci Change Communication Checklist)


OK, so we do need to recognize each individual team member and somehow answer for each, “What’s in it for me?”

With knowledge of a proposed change and its expected business benefits, we could imagine how individuals might be better off or what they might get out of engaging in the change:

  • You’ll have a single sign-on
  • Forms will pre-populate and eliminate duplicate data entry
  • Metrics will appear on a new dashboard
  • You can drill down to view data in customized ways without creating a custom report format
  • System response time will improve
  • Customer records will now include a lifetime value score
  • And on, and on, and on, including
  • You will still have a job

Who wouldn’t love all of that?

Does this list of new or improved system functionality and related processes and policies really get at what an employee cares about and values?  And will stating this or any list of imagined–or even reasonably expected–benefits early and often (seven times in seven ways) create a compelling case for any particular individual?

How are we to know, for each individual, what they care about and value, and if we were to know, how could we incorporate that information into anything but hundreds or thousands of highly individualized and personalized communications?  Both the possibility and practicality of such an approach seem problematic.

Another Approach

Ask, don’t tell.

Let’s move from a transactional approach (here’s how you will be better off; here’s what you will get out of the change) to a relational approach (how do you see and value the change?).

In the former, I’m telling you (and mostly guessing) in exchange for your support. That’s the transaction. In the latter, you’re telling me (and you know you best), identifying your values, and offering your support.

Rather than seeking to compel through artful communication, what if we seek to elicit, engender, and engage?  Rather than describing potential benefits, what if we allow for their discovery?

It could work like this.  Leaders closest to affected employees present clear and consistent statements of intended business benefits (something like the list above) and then, perhaps in a team meeting, invite each employee to question, consider, and respond.  A worksheet would encourage respondents to externalize thoughts and feelings while preserving privacy if desired.

What appears on each worksheet, for each employee, are highly individualized, personal responses that are much more likely to include what’s really important and valued.

Now we know what employees care about and value, and how that aligns with proposed changes, because each one has told us.  Better yet, each employee knows in their own words from their own point of view. No guess work. Deeper employee engagement through participative discovery. Voluntary alignment and commitment to support and achieve what’s valued. And opportunities to reveal unforeseen impacts or concerns.

Some say “There is no I in team, but there is me,” and as for me, that’s most important.

Have you implemented a similar approach?

Learn. Do. Teach. Lead.


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A Change by Any Other Name


‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What’s Montague? It is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What is in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell just as sweet.
–Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene II

So says Shakespeare’s Juliet, suggesting that the name of Romeo’s family house, Montague, should not be enough to keep them apart.

Romeo likes her suggestion, and replies:

I take thee at thy word:
Call me but love, and I’ll be new baptized;
Henceforth I never will be Romeo.

I wonder if the same argument works for change.  Would change by any other name be just as [frightful? hopeful? positive? energizing?].

The Association of Change Management Professionals (ACMP) Standard for Change sensibly states:

Successful communication of the Case for Change occurs when business rationale communications are sufficient enough that each type and level of stakeholder can clearly articulate what is changing, how the change benefits or affects the organization, and how the change affects him or her individually (often referred to as “What’s In It For Me”). (5.2.1)

Prosci suggests much the same in a Change Communication Checklist:

To be effective, communications must get at what an employee cares about and values. To gain their support, you must provide a compelling case for how they will be better off or what they get out of engaging in the change. Answer WIIFM (what’s in it for me?) early and often in your communications.

Were we to heed these recommendations, we might use the word change less and instead focus more often, or more clearly, on some positive attributes or expected outcomes that an individual, group, or firm might realize such as:

achievement, advancement, benefit, capability, competence, contribution,  development, expertise, future, gain, growth, improvement, innovation, insight, involvement, know-how, learning, opportunity, potential, proficiency, profit, skills, success, understanding, value, vision.

Of course, these and any words must be authentic, realistic, truthfully used, communicated with aplomb.

To me, they all smell sweeter than change.

Do we use these words enough?

Rose created by Store Black from the Noun Project.  Used under the Creative Commons Attribution license.





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