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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Moneyball Part 2: Big Change

In part one, I voiced three questions.  Let's take a whack at one:

"when someone has a (possibly) great idea for a new way of operating, how does the organization decide to make the change?"

Big organizations are harder to change than small ones.  When you think about Monyball - the organization is really not that big.  In my years working in and around IT projects, I've learned that to make a big change - go small.  Ways to achieve this:

1.  Start a skunk works - in this strategy you carve out a small part of the big organization and change in isolation from the general organizational culture.  Note that a risk here is that the skunk work is a success, but the larger organization rejects the improvements.  "Yeah, I can see how that would work for a 20 person group, but it will never scale to our 700 person organization.

2.  Persuade executive management - here you sell the change at the top and try to enforce.  This is very risky because executives may have short attention spans and may agree without really buying in. In some organizations, top level sponsorship is not enough.  If you go this way - first check to see that the executives have a small number of change initiatives going on at any one time.  Too many change projects is an indication that the organization is churning and not really changing at all.

3.  Plant the idea and let it grown - I've seen visionary leaders succeed in big change by leading their teams to an idea and then encouraging the workers to implement the change.  This works best when the workers own the idea (that is, when the workers have the light bulb moment and then act upon it).  If such a change is really going to work, the growth is by word of mouth among the do-bees in the organization.  The leadership role here is to recognize and reward teams for forward thinking and innovation.  In my opinion, this is really the only way to effect big change in a large mature organization.

4.  Make it a start up.  Let's face it, big organizations struggle with big change.  If your idea is really worthy, consider making it a new startup where you can own and control the project.

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