It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new.

– Niccolò Machiavelli, “The Prince”

Anyone who has tried to institute change in an organization would eventually have to deal with the scenario mentioned in the above quote. It does, however, get worse than that.

When you introduce a change to an organization, many people expect that the performance gains from the change would follow a linear path. Something like the graph I made in Paint below:

linear progression

In reality, however, performance does not follow that linear progression to the new status quo. Instead, change produces a dip in performance before you could start to see improvements. This leads us to the graph below:

dip before rise

The graph above was created by Virginia Satir to help understand how to facilitate change in an environment. Note that she isn’t a manager or a software engineer, but a family therapist, and her model was originally built for family therapy sessions. Fortunately for us knowledge workers, most organizations behave like dysfunctional families so this model fits in many cases, from instituting new policies down to choosing a better development platform for software.

More details can be found on the Steven Smith post on the topic.

In closing, I’d just like to point out that while a dip in performance usually means stakeholders mumbling “I told you so” and maneuvering to go back to the status quo. By knowing this change model, one wouldn’t be surprised of this outcome and would be able to deal with that problem efficiently. (Go read the post, it’s all in there.)

Share →

Leave a Reply