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Start changing by stopping

Changing an organization is difficult, it takes a long time and usually does not have the result you had hoped for beforehand. And it often turns out that at least half of the colleagues are not waiting for this change at all. I sympathize with you, as do many directors, HR Business Partners and Change Agents. Because this is still daily practice within organizations. So why do we keep trying?

Let’s approach it from a different angle. Because what if your colleagues would like to change, but especially in a way that suits them? We can also make the length of the change a lot shorter. How can we do that? By continuously doing small ‘updates’ on how you work. In other words: by prototyping. 

Prototyping in your organization

You want to make a change because you have an improved version of your organization in mind. But how do you know if your colleagues have the same thing in mind? And how do you know that your intended change will achieve that? So you actually make an assumption, a hypothesis. Use prototypes as they do in the innovation department. Make a small model of your desired change and test the hypothesis, or validate it as it is nicely called.

For example, you want more transparency in your organization because you believe that this contributes to better and faster decision making. To immediately throw open all the locks without context is a bit exaggerated. If you make that very small by doing this for one team or department. Or making only part of the information transparent. And retrieve the results after a month. Is the hypothesis correct that it contributes to better decision-making? Super fast you can learn from your experiment.

On our platform you will find these and other practices that you can use to prototyping (or experimenting) within your organization. With the Prototyping.work Canvas you can transform your hypothesis into a strong prototype.

Start by stopping

You start a change with a prototype very easy, small and fast. Today you already take the first steps. Just think: What are you doing that you don’t know (for sure) what it contributes to the organization or why you actually do it?

To make it a bit more visual, I often use this video from Brain Games, in which the waiting room experiment is performed. And explain the metaphor that the test subject is a new colleague at your company. In no time she will be part of the choices and rules that were once made, without knowing why.

Have a seat with this movie in mind. And make an overview of choices and rules from the past of which you don’t know the reason. Do it yourself or with your team. Of some choices you still find out the good reason, of others it is very doubtful. With that overview it is very easy to make choices you want to stop.

Quit the useless meetings

Take meetings for example. The agenda of the average office tiger is full of them. It starts off innocently, but in no time you’ll have a whole bunch of them back on your pants. Without really knowing what the purpose of the meeting is, let alone the added value or your role in it. 

This is our second chance to deal with choices from the past. You can do that as follows. Sum up all meetings for yourself and write behind each meeting what the goal is and what your role is in it. If both are unclear, you may already know. Choose one (or more) with which you immediately stop for a month. Stand still after that period and think if you missed something. If not, keep it that way. If so, it’s a good idea to think about the following ideas to improve the meetings.

Stop with the reports that are not read

And then another time saver: Reports. Do you ever write a report or minutes of which you don’t know the usefulness, or don’t know if it will be read? Ouch! That hurts. You can also stop writing for a certain period of time. Or, as an intermediate step, just copy the report from the previous month. And see if anyone notices. If you keep it up for more than three months, without anyone noticing, then it’s a good time to stop it for good.

What would you stop?

The things that you do because of the choices made in the past is also called Organizational Debt. This is a great source to kickstart change. You can literally free your colleagues from this ‘guilt’. This is how you get the change started. Of course, that is only the first step. Create a rhythm for these small changes, allowing you to continuously optimize your organization. 

But it all starts with the first step: What are you going to stop?

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