September 17, 2012

Leadership for Startups: Change Agent

As Kent Beck (1) says in his talk at Startup Lessons Learned 2011 Initiate Change is core of any startup and goes beyond the agile manifesto's goal of being capable to respond to change. If the startup successfully changes the world, it has to scale - or to pivot, if the product hypothesis proves wrong. Both, success and failure, require a difficult to lead change that affects the everyone in the company.

At the last leancamp in Berlin I have used a brief version of the Change Agent exercise form the management 3.0 agile leadership practice training to gather and share insights with other lean startup enthusiasts.  Here is what I have learned from the session.

First, since my partner Mike Leber missed his early flight in Vienna, I had to choose between the sessions I wanted to do. A/B testing by asking for hands up voting at the open space "Grow a Lean & Agile Organizational Structure" vs. "How to lead change" showed, that there was much interest in the change topic but little interest in growing structure. This result had little to do with the voting on the user voice. Learning: don't take votes on the user voice too seriously and be prepared to act in the moment.

After a very very brief introduction to the management 3.0 framework of change, three groups formed to tell stories about change and to share their insight how the change worked and why. The management 3.0 framework considers change from 4 perspectives: System, Individuals, Interactions and Environment.

Part of the game are a set of cards, which provide questions to make you think about the aspects of change fand gather input or playing the story telling game. What I think many people found puzzling was to start with a more abstract framework instead of using more emotional input like pictures to stimulate their phantasy for story telling. Learning: Don't use the framework to inspire story telling but use it for gathering insights.

The story share&capture exercise itself worked pretty well though and I got some feedback that the stories vs. insights concept actually was a simple and powerful tool to guide the conversation. Below you find the pictures I took from the wall. In case you have any feedback for me about what you like, what you wish and what if whatever comes to your mind let me know.

(1) Kent Beck talks beyond agile programming

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