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Lean Change Management A Mandatory Approach For Every Executive Leader

Lean change Management Model

Resisting the change is a natural reaction when you don´t involve people affected by the change. Jason Little´s book,  Lean Change Management, shows how to implement successful change through examples of innovative practices that can dramatically improve the success of change programs.

About Lean Change Management Model

“All models are wrong, but some are useful” is a phrase acknowledged to a Professor of Statistics at the University of Wisconsin, George Box. His idea is that simple models can be useful for making sense of complex situations, even if they´re not 100% correct.


Below you can see the picture of the Lean Change Management Model by Jason Little. It consists of 3 main parts: Insights, Options, Experiments and 3 parts of Experiments – Prepare, Introduce, Review.


Here´s a brief explanation of the Lean Change Management Cycle:

Insights: It´s very important to understand the current state of the organization, before you can plan any change. In order to do that, there are several tools, assessments, and models you can apply to understand the current position. The Lean Change Management book describes many practices to collect Insights.


Options: When your teams gain enough Insights to start with the planning, you will need Options. Options have a cost, value and impact. Options usually include one or more hypotheses as well as expected benefits. These hypotheses are then turned into Experiments.


Experiments: Now it’s time to introduce a change and see if it works out. At this point your teams should learn enough about your current position and consider multiple Options.


Experiments also have a sub-cycle:


Prepare: This is the planning stage of your Experiment. At this point, all you have are your assumptions about the change. In this step you validate your approach with people affected by the change.


Introduce: In this step you start working with people affected by the change. Once a change will reach this step, it is part of the process.


Review: Here you review the outcomes of the Experiment. Normally you do this after the amount of time you thought you would need for the change to stick.

How to run a Lean Change Cycle

Lean Change Model is a nonlinear and feedback-driven model for managing change.

As described above, in this model, Insights is when you observe the situation as it currently is.


Then you move to Options, where you evaluate cost, value, and impact of each possibility. From this you create a hypothesis to test the expected benefits of that test. Using that hypothesis, you form an Experiment.

Insights – listening the right way

Insights is the first step of the Lean Change Management Model. When looking for Insights, the most important thing to do is listen but we must listen in the right way.


We develop Insights by being curious, asking questions, and helping the people who want the change. By asking questions we can discover what the real problem is and discover new Insights.


Insights can be generated from various practices or assessments.

Practices that generate Insights

Practices are specific processes or actions to generate Insights. There are many change management processes that have their own practices, so you can freely combine any of theses.


Jason Little is focusing on 5 main practices for generating Insights:

  1.  Information Radiators – visual management tools and help build trust by making work transparent
  2. Lean Coffee – Lean approach to running an informal meeting. The participants decide on the agenda, which normally has a certain theme
  3. Culture Hacking –  a practice that contains 3 components: the Crack, the Hack, and the Hacking Zones
  4. Retrospectives – a meeting held after every Sprint or Iteration, the team reflects on what worked well and wha did not, and what needs to be changed
  5. Force Field Analysis – great practice to find out what´s working against the change and what is is working to support it

Assessments that generate Insights

Assessments are more formal ways of generating Insights. These assessments provide valuable Insights, but require big data analysis.


There are 3 types of assessments:

  1. Prosci ADKAR – a tool for understanding the current situation at the beginning of an organizational change
  2. OCAI Cultural Assessment – helps leaders understand how to manage the harmony and tension that occur in the organizations
  3. Schneider Culture Model – similar to OCAI model

Options – getting the root cause of a problem

Options are designed to help people take action, which will get them to their desired future state.


Now, your change agent helps people generate some Options by asking: What is the root cause of the problem they´re dealing with? Dig deeper and find out what is going on and what might be some possible solutions.


There are several exercises and practices that your change agent can perform to get the root cause problem – for example Lean Coffee Session, Five Whys, Retrospectives, etc.


All options are valid, even silly ones, so do not throw crazy ideas away. It´s always better to have more options than only one option.

Factors that affect your options

Cost – what´s the effort needed to make this option viable?

Value – What´s the benefit?

Level of disruption – How disruptive would this option be in the organization?

How to asses your options

  1.  Highlight those Options you think will bring high disruption – use red sticker
  2. Throw any Options you feel might not work. You may want to do them, but now it´s not the right time.
  3. Ask your Change Agent/Sponsor to give his/her input

Experiments – building on curiosity

Now that there are some possible solutions, teams work together to create some Experiments to test them. They simply run one Experiment, and see what happens.


The idea is to learn from that and determine next steps. Each experiment includes three parts: Prepare, Introduce, and Review.


What they need to do is to prepare for the experiment, introduce the experiment to those who are involved and then review the results together.


Change agent invites the team members to participate, get their feedback, and have empathy for their problems.


Experiments help you develop an approach that makes it OK to not know everything upfront.

Creating hypothesis for experiments

All experiments start with hypothesis. Below you find a hypothesis structure:

We hypothesise by <implementing this change>

We will <solve this problem>

Which will have <these benefits>

As measured by <this measurement>


You can follow the following thought process:

  • think about what the experiment would be
  • think about who would be affected
  • think about what would be the benefit
  • think about how to validate the Experiment as successful

Developing your own change management process

It´s important to select and develop your own change process that best suits to your organization. There are 4 main components to developing your own change management process:

  1. Developing your Strategic Change Canvas
  2. Aligning your organization
  3. Developing your Change Agent Network
  4. Executing the Lean Change Management Cycle

Facilitating a Strategic Change Canvas session

There are several different approaches for group facilitation. The most important thing is to visualize the canvas on a wall using sticky notes.

First create a canvas on a wall and use the following questions to guide you to complete the canvas:

  1. What points haven´t we considered yet?
  2. What are our assumptions about this strategy?
  3. What is our riskiest assumption?
  4. How often should we review this strategy?
  5. How will we collect feedback from staff
  6. What other important information should we put on this canvas?

There are several key persons that should be involved in this session: the Change Sponsor, the Change team and optionally executive team (depending on the size of the organization).

Aligning your organization

Once the Strategic Change Canvas has been created, it´s time to start aligning stakeholders in your organization with your change strategy.


If your organization is rather small, you can facilitate a session with everyone, including management and employees.


Here´re couple of tips that might help you facilitating the “Change Alignment” session:

  1. In bigger companies, re-purpose an existing department meeting and ask the manager and one member of the change team present the Strategic Change Canvas
  2. In smaller organizations, do a full-day company session using any type of facilitation approaches for the large group.
  3. Tip: facilitate this sessions starting with stakeholders that are affected by the change
  4. Do an ADKAR Assessment survey

It´s important that you, as an executive, and change sponsors leave details to the team when aligning with change. That includes measurements too; Avoid telling teams how you´ll measure them, let them figure out their own progress measurements.


Creating organizational alignment around change is difficult and time consuming, especially in bigger organizations.

Developing your Change Agent Network

It´s important you have internal change management team or anyone that is responsible for implementing change. You (executive) and managers need to act as change agents.


The reason is because people are more likely to work with their peers rather than external consultants (which is recommended to have too).


People might feel threatened or feel that change is being forced on them if they don´t see their peers being involved first.


Here are some tips for expanding your change team:

  • Get one person from each department that is affected by the change
  • Let early adopters that are being part of the change know that the change team involves extra work
  • “Promote” becoming member of a change team as something exclusive to attract the right people
  • Rotate the change team members periodically, depending on the type of change you´re implementing

Executing the Lean Change Management Cycle

Implementing a successful change program requires these basic building blocks. Change only fails when the people managing it blindly follow a structured process that isn´t compatible with the organization.


Therefore, it is important to build your own change management process using the Lean Change Management cycle.


Here´re some ideas:

  1. Create a change program room: make your plan visible (using Strategic Change Canvas and Experiments)
  2. Decide how often to have these meetings
  3. Do not use status reporting – ask your change team to go to your big visible room. It´ll be hard but you need to stick to open and honest dialogue

These 3 pieces are the key points you need to build your own change process. Avoid creating too much process at the beginning.  The interactions among your change teams will be better equipped to deal with complexity. Therefore, create enough process to trigger these interactions.


If you´re interested in attending one of our Lean Change Agent workshops, please visit our training calendar page.

  • Lean Change Management book by Jason Little
  • How to run a Lean Change Cycle, Happy Melly

Picture credits:

Alan O´Rourke

Luis Gonçalves

About Luis Gonçalves

Luis Gonçalves is an Entrepreneur, Author, International Keynote Speaker, Blogger and Management Consultant. I spent most of my career helping organisations become more Agile with different roles in different organisations. Nowadays I work with Executive Leaders by improving their organisations leading them to become effective, efficient and highly rewarded leaders.