Productivity & Effectiveness

Change and the challenge of visible impact

By 14/03/2016 August 22nd, 2019 One Comment
Change and the challenge of visible impact

Visible impact as a manager is pretty easy in teams or organisations where large change is required or obvious fixes can lead to big changes. But in high performing teams change becomes a lot less visible. Is change still happening?

In the early days of major change the visible impact is high. People in the team and external to it can see the difference. It’s visible. It’s often very measurable and tangible. People can relate to it. People can see it. People can see the effects of it without having to dig too deep.

Fist in the air after making an impact and winning

Fist in the air after making an impact and winning
Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash

When I talk about change with my teams I talk about taking a team on a journey from 1 to 10.

1 is the starting point and 10 is True North -the perfect end point.

1 could be Waterfall and 10 could be Scrum.

1 could be scrum and 10 could be Kanban.

1 could be a functional team to a cross functional team at 10.

The scale doesn’t matter, it’s the journey you’re on that does. But whatever way you look at it you’re taking people from one place to another. You are moving them through a change and it always pays to be able to articulate that change.

If your journey is Waterfall (1) to Scrum (10) it is often very easy to see. People start having stand-ups, retrospectives and planning. Functional teams start coming together and work starts to flow out of the door..if you’re getting it right.

People start to collaborate more and make more noise as they talk to each other. People start making priority choices about work. More communication starts to happen across the business as the need for knowledge increases. Many of these changes are visible. The impact can be obvious to see, more so in the early to mid part of this journey.

Visible Impact Long Impact

But, if you’re taking a team through change that is marginal and harder to see, such as from Scrum to a Kanban way of working, it may be a trickier to articulate your progress.

In the example of moving from scrum to Kanban. Change may happen with Kanban boards and the way the team organise work. The frequency and consistency of releases may improve too. But over time the improvements you and the team are making become less visible to others. The changes are becoming harder. The gains from these changes become seemingly less as you head further down the journey.

Visible Impact and Stages Of Change

Don’t give up though. Try not to worry what others think. Try to find ways to communicate the reasons and value in the initiatives you’re doing. Many will scoff at the tiny improvements. Many will see no value. Many will give up.

In my experience, great managers spend most of their time working on marginal improvements (assuming they’ve done the basics of getting to a performing team). They know that over time these small improvement compound to create significant results.

Some managers give up when the visible impact starts to dwindle.

It’s easy to believe that nothing else needs to change. If little is ripe for improvement with visible impact then “near perfection” has surely been achieved? Right? It’s easy to believe that the targets you;ve met mean it’s time to stop.

Don’t stop at your targets. They’re an artificial ceiling.

Don’t give up. Keep going. Keep pushing through. Few managers do. And that’s why you should keep going. Keep improving.

The marginal wins are worth it, even if they aren’t that visible to start with.

It’s not all perfect though. High performing teams can come apart quickly. The wrong manager. The wrong targets. The wrong process. Keep a watch on this. By constantly learning and improving though you’ll find ways to ride out the storms.

“In times of change learners inherit the earth; while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists” – Eric Hoffer

So why am I so bothered about Visible Impact?

Whether you like it or not visible impact is how some people will measure your perceived value. You may even measure yourself on how much impact you have and how visible it is to others. After all, we all want to make a difference. We all want recognition. Don’t we?

But the more you improve a team, the less visible your improvements may become.  Remember though, that it doesn’t mean you’re not making a difference.

Good managers can take teams to the edge of this visible impact. Great managers take teams in to the areas of marginal gains.