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Introducing Change in Stable Environments

Introducing change to an organization can be very challenging. This is especially true when the organization is quite stable to begin with. For example, if the teams have been working together, on the same product, in the same roles, for years at a stretch, then you are very likely going to find that change may not be received well at all. It’s pretty obvious really. We all get into our comfort zones, learning to do the things we all do best, and we dismiss change with a, “No thanks, I’m just fine. I like it this way. This way works.”

Frankly, from a certain perspective, change can just look like a whole lot of risk, with only marginal reward – if even that. So what do you do if you are someone who is trying to get some change out of a very stable, well established group with no obvious inclination to change? Well, I’m glad you asked:

First, create some instability in the environment. Oh boy, that ought to make you popular! The fact is, that without some sort of instability in the environment, it’s very hard to effect change. Without the instability, there is no perceived need to alter our habits. We need to create a situation where we leave our comfort zones. The best way to do this? Mix things up. Move people between teams. Put them into domains they haven’t worked in before, working with people they haven’t worked with before.

Nobody in a stable organization is going to like this, but it may be just what it takes to get people learning again. If we can get them into learning mode, then we can start to experiment with different ways of solving problems, and that’s when new practices look a whole lot more interesting.

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