Making Changes: Change Cycle


To stay ahead (or on top) of the game, we must recognize that change is good and that we must be continuously improving the way we work. While reading a book “90 days” I realized that I had been through these stages multiple times, fortunately walking away successful. It also made me realize how close I was to a possible failure in some of the changes I had made and because of this realization; the Change Cycle will always be on the back of my mind when I attempt to drive Change.

I took the concept that was in the book and modified the terms as it was easier for me to relate the “change cycle” to something I already knew, the “process cycle”.

Here is what I do and have to say about process:

Good process should be well tailored to the organization that intends to benefit from it. Process is much easier to implement when its implemented in stages based on a feedback loop; When improving or introducing process, a big concern is usually how fast and how much? Well, too much too early generally results in resistance to change and too little too late results in process loss.

So what should be done?

A rapid agile approach should be taken when implementing process. Process is implemented and/or improved when the lack of process has been identified. Once an idea of what process needs to be implemented has been formed, the cycle starts with

  • Introducing the process as a pilot, if the pilot is successful
  • It should then be verified that it’s repeatable. If the pilot is successful and repeatable
  • It should be formally defined and shared among the team as the formal process.
  • The process should now be managed and measured to obtain metrics to figure out how successful it is, its ROI, etc. These metrics should then be used to
  • Optimize and continuously improve the process.

The concepts of the “process cycle” for introducing a process are very close to the concepts of a “change cycle” for introducing a change.

In a change cycle, you:

  • Introduce a change and if the introduction of the change seems successful you then
  • Maintain the success to obtain stability. Once stability has been insured you
  • Optimize and introduce other changes as needed; this is your optimal success cycle.
  • Should the change not be maintainable, you will need to
  • Adapt the change to make it maintainable; this is the adapting cycle.
  • If you cannot adapt your change to be maintainable, you might have to
  • Change direction and counter the change; this is the Counter cycle.
  • If the change cannot be countered and be made maintainable, you will end up with a failed change. You can also end up with failure if your introduced change is not successful. A change can easily be unsuccessful if it’s too large; rubs people the wrong way, inappropriate, incorrect, etc.

Sometimes we start in this cycle at a completely different stage, for example we may realize that we have inherited a change put in place by someone else (different team, a VP, etc.) and we now need to act and adapt their request, or counter the change, making it successful. The 90 days book does a good job of giving a more general view of the change cycle; for me, the stage comparison of the two cycles makes sense.

The change cycle for making changes is just a small piece of the puzzle. How you go about obtaining buy in from your team, peers, and higher ups is another big part of the puzzle that will either result in success or failure. That will be a topic for another day.

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