Lean Change Management Workshop — Experience Report

Barry Overeem
May 21, 2017 · 6 min read

This week I attended the Lean Change Management workshop facilitated by Jason Little. In collaboration with Co-Learning, Ralph van Roosmalen, Martijn van Asseldonk and myself we organized this workshop in the Netherlands and Belgium. Personally I’ve read the related book several times and experimented with the concept on different occasions. Therefore it was a great moment to invite the master himself and share ideas, insights and stories. In this blog post I’ll share my thoughts about the workshop.

What is Lean Change Management?

Lean Change Management is a non-linear, feedback-driven model for managing change. It’s all about incrementally changing organizations in a highly transparent and collaborative manner. Instead of a first-time right, blueprint driven approach, the focus is on experimentation and trying out different things to learn what works.

Lean Change Management starts with gaining insights by using frameworks, practices, and assessments necessary to understand the current state of the organization. These insights will be input for the change plan. Next you can decide on options (with a cost, value and impact) based on what you learned from collecting insights. Options will drive your next steps in managing change. Options will lead to experiments using a prepare, introduce and review cycle. Prepare is the planning stage of the experiment in which you validate your approach with the people affected before the implementation. Introduce the experiment by starting to work with the people affected by the change and review the outcomes. The outcomes might lead to new experiments.

In short, Lean Change Management is about…

Co-creating change to ensure successful change

Why Lean Change Management?

Although you can try really hard, change is something that cannot be controlled. As Jason describes in his book: “your change doesn’t begin on the start-date written on your Gantt chart. It begins when people are whispering at the water-cooler.” Change has no logical starting point and changes plans become obsolete so quickly because there is too much emphasis on trying to create a perfect change plan.

With Lean Change Management you validate the change plan with everyone involved before you implement it, and get their input and feedback on the changes. Lean Change Management uses system feedback as input for the change plan. It’s about helping people through a change instead of forcing them to comply with it.

It’s always about understanding the perspective of the people affected by the change.

Facilitating transformational change is hard, a plan-driven approach to change isn’t equipped to manage this degree of complexity. A feedback-driven change approach helps manage the uncertainty, resistance and emotional response to change. Lean Change Management moves the slider for managing change from using plan-driven approaches to feedback-driven approaches.

Traditional thinking says that you must follow a process and create a plan. Lean Change Management says: collect insights first in order to guide and share your process and plan.

Trying to apply a structured change process is one of the causes why change initiatives fail.

Lean Change Management will help build your own change process that is adapted to your organizations reality. The process you create and follow will evolve over time as you learn how your organization reacts to change. Find the people that are motivated to learn, and help them become change agents. Once other employees see their colleagues are motivated to support the change, it will help reduce resistance to change.

The Workshop

During the 2-day workshop we explored the underlying principles of Lean Change Management and put these into practice with tangible exercises. I would consider reading the book a pre-requisite. It enables the group to have in-depth conversations with each other more quickly. Before the training everyone was asked to complete a survey that assessed your knowledge about Agile and change management. This showed the group was already familiar with the Agile principles. It helped Jason create a tailor-made program that really suited the knowledge and experience of this group.

I just realize that Jason uses a feedback-driven approach for his workshops as well. Instead of a plan-driven “one size fits all” workshop. Cool! Practice what you preach 🙂

The picture below shows topics that were addressed during the workshop. We discussed the concept of Lean Change Management, the connection with Agile transformations, how to create alignment, define options, start experiments and involve people. Being a big fan of “Training from the Back of the Room” I was happy to see Jason used the 4C’s concept to design the class and accelerate learning. This means that most topics were explained using “Connection — Concepts — Concrete practice — Conclusion”. This ensured a collaborative and energized atmosphere. Although the room temperate combined with a sometimes too long explanation of the concept were possible improvements.

My Favourite Exercises

During the 2-day course we’ve played multiple “serious games” combined with using the LCM principles on real-life examples. To give you a bit more insight in what you can expect during this workshop, I’ll share the exercises I liked the most.

  • Building a duck with LEGO. During this exercise we discovered it’s possible to create 18 unique ducks by using only 7 LEGO bricks. Nobody created exactly the same duck!
  • Build a tower with LEGO. The instruction was to put a person “on the tower”. Most of us understood this as “put the person on top of the tower”. It showed how fast there’s a different interpretation of seemingly straightforward instructions.
  • Create a change manifesto. Everyone of us was familiar with the original Agile Manifesto. During this exercise every team created their own “change manifesto”. This triggered nice discussions about what we value with change management and organizational development. Jason shared an awesome manifest that was created during a different workshop:

Pull over Push

Touch over Technology

Organic over Scripted

Growth over Perfection

  • Practice story telling. As Steve Denning puts it: “Story telling translates dry and abstract numbers into compelling pictures of the future. A story is something that comes from outside. But the meaning is something that emerges from within. When a story reaches our hearts with deep meaning, it takes hold of us. Once it does so, we can let it go, and yet it remains with us.” During the workshop I’ve experienced that someone who used story telling to explain his organizations case, really got everyone engaged and activated.
  • Set Objectives and Key Results. I’ve already read quite some articles about “Objectives and Key Results” but so far haven’t really used it. Objectives and Key Results is a framework for defining and tracking objectives and their outcomes. During the workshop it became clear to me that setting tangible goals & measurements is what’s often missing during change endeavours. It seems common sense, but I’ve personally experienced it’s certainly not common practice.

These are only a few exercises we’ve done. Consider it a teaser to attend the workshop yourself and experience all of them!

The Exercise I Missed

In the book Lean Change Management Jason describes an exercise he has done during the AYE conference. It’s about a simulation designed to have people experience the Virginia Satir Change Model. This five-stage change model describes the effects each stage of a change has on feelings, thoughts, performance, and physiology. During the simulation the participants truly seemed to experience the stages of this model themselves. Would have been very cool if this was part of the workshop as well. But hey, you can’t have it all!


In this blog post I’ve shared information about the concept Lean Change Management and the related 2-day workshop. Besides introducing the concept, I also wanted to offer you an impression on what to expect during the workshop. If you are involved in (Agile) change management and/or organizational development; this is a course I can definitely recommend!

Originally published at www.barryovereem.com on May 21, 2017.

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