How to Change Other People

The hardest part of becoming Agile is changing the behavior of other people. (At least, that’s what people keep telling me.) Because, even when people do want to be Agile themselves, their organizations (the systems around the people) don’t always co-operate. How do you “make” top management more Agile? How can you convince other developers to better educate themselves? And how can you steer customers so they accept Agile practices and sign Agile contracts?

Start reading

I’ve realized that it all comes down to change management and, luckily, there are lots of books available on this topic. Switch, Fearless Change, Leading Change, Influencer, and many more have pages full of useful advice for change agents. The downside? Although most of these books are very good and can be of great help, they all tend to paint rather simplistic pictures of change in social systems.

The complexity of real life

Simple models, supported with convincing and inspiring stories, are good to get you started with the basics of change management. But the real world is far more complex than what most models seem to assume. As complexity thinkers, we need a more holistic approach to organizational change. We need a way to understand how to address the whole system in order to change it. And not just some highlighted parts of it.

The trick, as with all the behavioral possibilities of complex systems, is to recognize what structures contain which latent behaviors, and what conditions release those behaviors – and, where possible, to arrange the structures and conditions to reduce the probability of destructive behaviors and to encourage the possibility of beneficial ones.

– Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems

A word to the wise

Some people say, “You cannot make people behave differently”. True. But at the same time we can’t really “make someone laugh” or “make someone happy”, can we? But the least we can do is try. That is what Change Management 3.0 is all about: give it your best shot and, whenever you can, make that shot a bit more than just an educated guess.


Ale2011 The Change Management 3.0 model worked when I wanted Agile & Lean practitioners throughout Europe to work closer together. Although many said it couldn’t be done because cultural and geographical differences were too big, I thought the least I could do is to give it a try.

While I’m writing this, forty people from sixteen different countries are busy organizing a conference together.

I will write more about Change Management 3.0 in subsequent blog posts. Or… you can choose to attend one of my classes.

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“How to Change the World”