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Fearless Change: Making Change Happen by Using Patterns

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Linda Rising and Mary Lynn Manns show how recognizing and using organizational patterns (named strategies for recurring problems) can help one person to become an important agent of change for his organization.
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Remember that feeling of excitement and possibility when you’re just back from a conference where you sat in on some really provocative, stimulating sessions? Or maybe you read that new book you’ve had on your shelf for a few weeks and found some great ideas that you think would help your next project. We all encounter new ideas. We get excited, but then we get busy with other work and never try to make our new ideas happen. In most cases, our lack of initiative isn’t due to lack of enthusiasm, and it certainly isn’t because the ideas aren’t great! It’s usually because we don’t know where to begin and what to do next.

All of us—even high-level executives—feel powerless when it comes to enabling real change. Sure, an order from on high can result in compliance, but it’s equally likely to create employees who are disgruntled rather than satisfied with the new order of things.

The Pattern Concept

Our approach is to encourage the people around you to become so interested and involved in the change that they want to make it happen. We organized these strategies for introducing new ideas as a collection of patterns. A pattern is a named strategy for solving a recurring problem. Because each pattern has a name, you can use the names in conversations with other change agents. In this article, we’ll reference the pattern names in italics.

Our patterns are based on the experiences of change agents all over the world who’ve shared stories of their successful change strategies with us. In this article, we’ll create a "super-story"—a composite of many different stories to illustrate how a change agent might proceed. Our story is about a software developer named Jim, who went to Agile 2005. We’ll interrupt the flow of the story with our commentary to tie what Jim is doing to the patterns.

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