A very short post about advocating for change in your organization.

Say that you see an opportunity to improve something at your company. You’ve chatted with some coworkers about it and they seem interested in fixing the problem as well. There appears — at least on the surface — to be some agreement that this is an opportunity worth pursuing.

At this point there is a tendency to rush into trying to fix that problem. We’re told to secure “executive support” and “buy-in”, rally your supporters, and strike while the iron is hot. There’s a risk to this approach, however. It is easy to mistake the support of your team for their willingness to push through when the change effort gets hard. You also run the risk of becoming the accidental spokesperson for a particular change effort, and when detractors are able to pin the effort on a single person (and their qualms) it is a lot easier to dismiss it (and them). It’s risky and fragile.

I know because I’ve fallen into this trap over and over.

An alternative is to focus on the “meta” approach to continuous improvement. By this I mean advocating for building the team’s continuous improvement muscle without advocating for a particular change opportunity. There will always be problems. A team with a healthy approach to self-care will have an effective way to bubble up the most pressing issues and work together to run experiments to address those issues.

If you’re going to stake your current job on a single advocacy effort, I advise you focus on this area of meta continuous improvement. Get it moving. Make it healthy. Practice. Repeat. An advantage here is that once the effort is in gear, it will be possible for you to advocate for your needs. But it will not be about YOUR needs only. The whole team will participate, and hold itself accountable. You are advocating for the overall need for resiliency and self-repair vs. a particular problem/solution.

Written by

Multiple hat-wearer. Prod dev nut. I love wrangling complex problems and answering the why with qual/quant data. @johncutlefish on Twitter.

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