How to Create Alignment with Your Change Coalition

You should change the picture that represents your vision to a police boat

That was the comment from the manager of a team of coaches I worked with in the past, after he saw the team vision we created. After I attended Management 3.0, I ran an emergent purpose exercise with our team. These were the two images our team drew to represent our vision:

Coaching stance

This example represented how we would help people in the organization “climb the steps to agility“. We would know we made progress when we saw people exhibiting the behaviour associated with developing skills in lean and agile practices.

For example, we knew we would have made progress when the BA’s co-created requirements with the development team, instead of writing requirements in isolation and throwing them over the wall to the development team.

Our other image was a lighthouse:

qmo-lighthouseThe idea behind this image was that we, the coaching team, were the lighthouse and our job was to ‘light the path‘, or , show the organization how they could use lean and agile practices to reach their goals.

Doesn’t get much more fluffy than that!

The team voted, and the lighthouse won.

Clearly we weren’t aligned with the manager who, the day we were hired, told us that we carried a big stick, and we had to use it!

Lack of alignment comes from a lack of cohesion with the change team. When people on the change team have different interpretations of the urgency for the change, their energy for managing the change will dissipate, and the focus of each change agent on the team can┬ádiverge. While having an aligned team isn’t new, The Cohesion Prime from explains this quite well. - Cohesion – Cohesion

I guess a simpler way of saying that is if the people on your change team think their way is the right way, and they’re doing whatever the heck they think is right, the change isn’t going to work.

There are a couple of ways to combat this lack of alignment:

  • Team Working Agreement: Create a visible set of team norms and create safety to allow each team member to challenge others who don’t stick to it.
  • Emergent Purpose Exercise: Have the team break into groups of 4 and create a picture, or metaphor that represents their vision for the team.
  • Retrospect with the change sponsor: Assuming you have one, review your team vision monthly with whichever executive is sponsoring the change. Sometimes lack of cohesion on the change team can be a result of weak executive sponsorship.

For cohesion to happen, the change coalition needs to work at it. That means meeting frequently, retrospecting frequently and, to be frank, calling bullshit on team members when they aren’t sticking to the team agreement!

This is hard to do. I’ve dined on my ego many times, and it’s hard to do, especially when you’re passionate that your way is the right way.