Empirical Mindset: How to deliver value continuously
Using the scientific principle of empiricism to replace planning with course correction.
Empirical Mindset: How to deliver value continuously
Using the scientific principle of empiricism to replace planning with course correction.
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The empirical method is, by any measure, the heart of the agile mindset. It starts from the principle that we cannot predict peoples reactions or responses (customers, employees, or even our own team) and therefore cannot guess their preferences. So instead of approaching any project by starting with a long planning phase where we identify how each stakeholder will react in our scenarios, we conduct a series of experiments designed to satisfy increasingly detailed hypothesis of what value is. Risk is mitigated by tackling the biggest assumptions early on, and getting clarity on those items that could derail our project.

So what does this means for change management? We should think of our change activities as experiments, and design them in order to validate a hypothesis. Instead of spending months creating a perfect change plan, we start with a small prioritization phase to identify the biggest risk to our transformation and create an intervention designed to validate a strategic assumption though experiments. The mechanism is not complicated. What is really different is the approach. 

We propose an approach, a framework for empiricism, where we have worked with multiple groups to transform a change planning phase into a way-of-working where the empirical method is used to plan as you go, and respond to change as it happens.

Step 1: Identify Strategic Assumptions

A change team first identifies a strategic assumption - which is tied to the strategic goals of the change program. Then these strategic assumption are ordered by importance, risk and impact to give us some measure of comparison. At this stage we are still working with theories, and are trying to better understand the problem instead of planning a solution.

Step 2: Build hypothesis (define an intervention)

Once a strategic assumption is identified, the next step is brainstorm a hypothesis for our intervention. The hypothesis will outline how a potential solution could satisfy the strategic assumption, and it is what we call an agile Intervention. We will attempt to validate this hypothesis as early as possible. Each defined hypothesis should be matched to metrics on how we will measure its progress and success (see the agile change metrics article).

Step 3: Experiment to validate

Now we have one or more Interventions, each defined by a clear hypothesis that ties back to one or more strategic assumptions. We are ready to start experimenting. Our experiments should include those that are directly impacted by the change, and they should be the ones that give the feedback we will use to measure our metrics. The experiments should be done with as little investment as possible, starting with a proof-of-concept or a prototype. The intent is to "fail fast" - or invalidate the hypothesis as early on as we can. 

London, UK
March 2-3, 2019