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Change Management - The hard part ... System 1 Engaged.

At Fundamentals of Change Management post I described four key concepts of change management that any logical and rational being can agree with immediately. But when it comes to applying those concepts and causing a change, the model breaks and the change agent encounters a bunch of emotional and irrational beings. They see proposed changes as an attack to their existence.

It turns out that these two types of beings (logical/rational and emotional/irrational) are in fact the two sides of the same being. They are intelligent and emotional beings with strong logical and cognitive ability, and they belong to a group, tribe or family. They have their own dreams, self-image, self-esteem and ego. With this, they each create their own identify in the society they live in.


Our guy (in above picture) is a human who is emotional with cognitive ability, has unique individual identity and belongs to one or more social groups. When we don't pay attention to that, then no matter how good your intention is you will encounter a strong passive or active resistance when proposing a change.

Who the hell are you to tell him to leave his mermaid, take the risk of climbing the mountain just to get a box of treasure?! What do you know about his life, and context he lives in? What do you know about his past and future dreams? You know nothing, Jon Snow!

I have tested and experimented different ways of causing change in organisations, teams and individuals (including myself).  Every time I caused the change with pure reasoning and logic, it was unsuccessful, had a short life and/or encountered huge resistance. The key was to accept the current reality of people's lives, see these people as unique individuals who belong to one or more social groups and have compassion and respect for them. And also the people themselves had to want the changes. Only then the changes encountered little or no resistance, were more effective and had long life.

I have witnessed failure in change initiatives, even after passing the rocks of resistance. This was simply because change also requires new behaviour and habit that may cause physical changes to neurones in the brain. The process takes time, it requires individuals to really want to change, and it is evolutionary.

That is why Kanban Change Management principles are designed to frame an evolutionary change:

  • Start with what you do now
    • Understand current processes, as actually practiced
    • Respect existing roles, responsibilities & job titles
  • Gain agreement to pursue improvement through evolutionary change
  • Encourage acts of leadership at all levels




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