I’ve been reading around the topic of short cycle delivery related to project management, entrepreneurship, innovation, business planning, and startup management. The book, The Lean Startup, which shares lessons from startups in Silicon Valley, talks about a repeatable “BUILD, MEASURE, LEARN” cycle. This practice is counter-intuitive to the way we have been taught in school, which is more of a traditional learn, build, measure approach. With this shift in thinking, we accelerate our learning cycle by getting rapid feedback about a working hypothesis we are testing, and use the feedback to adjust our direction. In principle, we could argue this is a much more efficient way to introduce new products into the market because we no longer waste time building a perfect, high quality solution that no one will buy. But would this approach work for organizational change management?
With a current client, I’ve been testing this hypothesis out very simply by running the corporate communications function for a major ERP systems implementation. Instead of adopting a traditional communication plan which attempts to define message, media, and audience from the start to the end of the project, accommodating for occasional shifts in direction, I’ve introduced a mechanism to plan for near-term communications and a second structured practice to catch emergent communication requirements which are then scheduled to more accurately fit the needs of the various stakeholder groups. As a result, planned and unplanned communications appear to be much more relevant and I no longer experience the common problem of over-planning and under-delivering by failing to deliver scheduled communications that are not necessarily relevant to what audiences require.
While I’ve started to develop working hypotheses about how to run a change program using Agile practices, my thinking is not mature and I am still working through how to integrate a backlog of work with a short cycle delivery practice along all the common dimensions of a good change program.