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Fearless Change: Where Do You Start?

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  1. Evangelism Is Critical for Success
  2. A Small Package of Patterns
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Maybe you attended a seminar, read a book, or heard about a new approach from a friend. You're excited because you think it can help your organization, but you don't know where to start. This chapter explains the "Evangelist" pattern and how you can use it to introduce new ideas to your organization.
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Maybe you attended a seminar, read a book, or heard about a new approach from a friend. You're excited because you think it can help your organization, but you don't know where to start. This chapter describes the very important pattern Evangelist(144) and a small package of patterns to always carry with you on your journey: Test the Waters(237), Time for Reflection(240), Small Successes(216), and Step by Step(224).

Think about how important it is when building a house to first decide where to build it. Only then can you make intelligent decisions about the house itself. In the same way, some of our patterns are better when applied before others. However, there isn't a strict ordering on the entire collection.

We have created a framework that provides some structure for using the patterns but it does not impose a rigid plan for you. The framework suggests rather than dictates. It's a springboard for action that you can adapt to your own organization and culture.

We believe that an effective change agent begins as an Evangelist(144). That is, we see this pattern with this name as the starting point for the rest of the pattern language. The name has a religious flavor and there's a good reason for that: We've found that unless you are truly passionate about the new idea, others will not be convinced to leave the tried and true ways and follow you. There's another piece to this rationale. If you don't have faith in your proposal, then you won't survive the bumpy road to grassroots adoption. There will be successes and failures along the way, and you must celebrate the former and withstand the latter. Only a sincere and abiding belief will carry you through all this turmoil. You must have passion and share that with others. At the same time, you should guard against being overzealous because, as you can imagine, there's a difference between having passion and being a fanatic. A fanatic is likely to turn people off.

Mark Twain said, "You know, I'm all for progress. It's change I object to." That's not true for everyone all the time, of course. Sometimes you're excited by change and look forward to it, but even when you welcome it, change is hard. Some people always seem to resist it. Research has shown that people are more easily convinced by those they like, those who are enthusiastic. As Ralph Waldo Emerson observed, "Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm."

We found the following testimony to the Evangelist pattern in Agents of Change by Barbara Bouldin.

Several years ago, I set out on a crusade. Management declared me a missionary and commanded me to go forth and convert everyone in our organization. I was spreading the word about the need to embrace the concept of productivity in the form of an automated software tool called Excelerator. As far as I can tell, management selected me because I was a true believer; in other words, I was the first convert. [*]

Evangelism Is Critical for Success

We strongly believe in the importance of this pattern for another reason. We have known change agents who were "hired guns" brought in from outside. We have a pattern called Dedicated Champion(129) (introduced in more detail in Chapter 8). This pattern recognizes that you can't effectively spread the word without having some part of your job dedicated to the task. In other words, a volunteer change agent is limited by lack of resources—particularly the time and energy for the required tasks.

We've talked to several who were hired to fill the role of a Dedicated Champion. We believe that those who weren't successful failed because they felt that since they were paid for introducing the innovation, they didn't have to be concerned about the sales aspect of the task. In other words, they thought they could bypass the evangelism. We've discovered that without the essential elements of passion, enthusiasm, belief, and commitment, a change agent who is "just doing his job" is not likely to be successful. So, even for a person who immediately dons the mantle of a Dedicated Champion, even if you are in a management position, becoming an Evangelist is critical.

A manager at one large company told us:

The important thing about new product development is that the champion of a new product develops a passion for that product and inspires passion in others. It's like a new business venture. People who have a passion for something find the time to work on it, at lunchtime, before or after work, weekends, whenever.

So the answer to the question "Where do I start?" is "Use the Evangelist pattern."

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