Change Patterns: Strategies for Influence and Impact

The Change Patterns are a very fundamental set of strategies you can add to your Change Leadership toolkit.

I’m a fan of patterns.  In their simplest form, they are a great way to build a shared vocabulary and rapidly transfer knowledge and experience.  It’s a great thing when a single word is a handle for a concept and actually encapsulate a few hundred words.  It makes talking about a space very efficient and effective, and rather than re-explaining ideas, you can build upward and onward, and move up the stack.  You can think of patterns as labels for strategies.

One of my favorite collections of patterns is the Change Patterns collection.   It’s a collection of patterns for driving change and introducing new ideas.  Here is my write up:

Change Patterns: A Language for Introducing New Ideas

The Change Patterns are from the book, Fearless Change: Patterns for Introducing New Ideas, by Mary Lynn Manns and Linda Rising.

If you’ve ever struggled with driving innovation, adoption, and change, you’ll appreciate the patterns.  Here are a few examples:

  1. Early Adopter. Win the support of the people who can be opinion leaders for the new idea.
  2. Small Successes.    To avoid becoming overwhelmed by the challenges and all the things you have to do when you’re involved in an organizational change effort, celebrate even small success.
  3. Trial Run.    When the organization is not willing to commit to the new idea, suggest that they experiment with it for a short period and study the results.

The power of the Change Patterns is that they are harvested from experts with real stories, real strategies, and real results.  The patterns themselves are the distillation of that experience down into simple strategies with names.

One of the Change Patterns is Corporate Angel. According to Manns and Rising, the Corporate Angel pattern is “To help align the innovation with the goals of the organization, get support from a high-level executive.”  Personally, I’ve made it a point to have a Corporate Angel on my toughest projects.  It helps to get over some of the internal humps, blockades, and barriers, that you otherwise can’t, when things get stuck at the wrong level.  It also helps give the project visibility, which can help remind people of the significance of the investment.

One of the things I’d like to do in the future is share my collection of change patterns at Microsoft, that I’ve learned over the years.  As a Program Manager, I often need to drive change and influence without authority.   This is especially true whenever I am driving projects.  After all, a very fundamental question about a given project is, “How will the world be different when you are done?”   Well, if nothing changes and nothing gets adopted, it won’t.   So the challenge I always face is how to streamline adoption and change.  I’ve learned a lot from the school of hard knocks.

Add the Change Patterns to your Change Leadership toolbox and amplify your impact and influence.

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