Seeing system dynamics in organizational change: 5) job safety but not role safety

This is the fifth article in the series of seeing system dynamics in organizational change. In the previous article, we concluded that the best time to de-scale was when the organization is still small and has few roles. In this article, we take up the challenge of reducing special roles, notably managers and specialists, when they are already in place.

No role safety

We reduce the special roles to have more responsible teams, which increase the organizational adaptiveness. However, it creates the discomfort among those special roles. All kinds of concerns are raised to resist the change. As those concerns are often valid, the special roles remain and change stalls.

Seeing system dynamics in organizational change cn - 5.1.jpg

B1-loop: Reduce special roles to increase adaptiveness

To fill in the adaptiveness gap, we apply the de-scaling force, thus, reduce the number of special roles. This increases team self-organization, then improves the adaptiveness until the adaptiveness goal is achieved.

B2-loop: Increase special roles to reduce discomfort

Reducing the number of special roles causes discomfort, thus increases resistance, which keeps up those special roles.

We should ask what our system optimizing goal is. If it is for the adaptiveness but we address the discomfort at the expense of it, we lose the plot, as described in the article of "local optimization and system optimizing goal". The discomfort is the secondary concern, and it should be addressed in other ways.

In LeSS, there is a guide called "Job safety but not role safety". Managers and specialists should not have role safety, and we should not keep those special roles simply for them to feel safe.

More than ten years ago, while I was working in Nokia Networks, the organization experienced a major redesign. As a result, the PMO was dissolved. It was clear that the project manager role would be gone. I was one of the project managers, and ready to leave the organization. However, even though there was no role safety, there was job safety. The organization tried the best in helping the people adapt. Luckily - one of my life-changing moments in retrospect - I changed my role and stayed in the new organization.

Inevitably, some people would choose to exit, while we should focus on the people who choose to stay and take up the change, and help them get through difficulty.

Survival anxiety and learning anxiety

Edgar Schein in his classical book "The corporate culture survival guide" introduced two concepts - survival anxiety and learning anxiety. They are two different types of discomforts.

Survival anxiety is the discomfort that "something bad may happen to you if you don't respond in some way". It creates motivation to change and acts as driving force for the change.

Learning anxiety is the discomfort that "the new behavior that may be required of you may be difficult to learn, and the new beliefs or values that are implied may be difficult to accept". It creates resistance to change and acts as restraining force against the change.

Seeing system dynamics in organizational change cn - 5.2.jpg

R1-loop: Survival anxiety creates motivation to change

Reducing the number of special roles increases survival anxiety, which provides the motivation to learn, thus, increases the learning. Then, the number of special roles could be reduced further.

B3-loop: Learning anxiety creates resistance to change

However, reducing the number of special roles increases learning anxiety too, which raises the fear, thus, increases the resistance. Then, the resistance keeps up those special roles.

B4-loop: Survival anxiety creates resistance to change

Even though survival anxiety increases the motivation for change, it raises the fear, thus, increases the resistance too. Then, the resistance keeps up those special roles.

The above dynamic is also reflected by two principles about survival anxiety and learning anxiety.

  • Principle one: survival anxiety must be greater than learning anxiety
  • Principle two: learning anxiety must be reduced rather than increasing survival anxiety

The real leverage is to reduce the learning anxiety by providing psychological safety, of which the two most important aspects are:

  • job safety, so that the people have time and space to learn and adapt;
  • learning support, so that the people learn and adapt effectively.

Respect for people

In summary, while we have to remove some special roles, we shall do it in a respectful way.

1. Job safety but not role safety. It is more respectful to clearly and firmly communicate the change than to blur the message.

2. Acknowledge that some people will not take up the change but exit. Be respectful for their decision.

3. Provide strong support for the people who decide to stay and take up the change, and help them learn and adapt in all ways.

Read more

Scrum master ทำแค่เนี๊ยะ

Scrum master ทำแค่เนี๊ยะ

เวลามีคนถามว่า Scrum master ทำอะไร แล้วผมตอบว่าทำให้ Scrum เวิร์คสำหรับทั้งองค์กร ซึ่ง โฟกัสหลัก ๆ 4 อย่างก็จะอยู่ที่ Product owner, ทีม, engineering practices และ องค์กร บางครั้งที่ผมจะได้ยินเสียงตอบกลับมาเบา ๆ ว่า “แค่เนี๊ยะ?” ในฐานะ

By Chokchai
how to สร้าง Knowledge Management

how to สร้าง Knowledge Management

ตอนเรียน Large Scale Scrum กับ Jurgen de Smet สิ่งหนึ่งที่ผมได้เรียนรู้ คือ ปัจจัยสำคัญหนึ่งที่ทำให้องค์กรหนึ่ง ๆ จะเร็วขึ้นได้ คือ จะต้องเรียนรู้ไปพร้อม ๆ กันได้ ซึ่งถ้าอยากทำแบบนั้นได้ก็จะต้อง share ownership

By Chokchai
โลกการเขียนโค้ด ตอน ซามูไรกับสปาตั้น

โลกการเขียนโค้ด ตอน ซามูไรกับสปาตั้น

ซามูไรที่ได้รับความไว้วางใจให้แก้ core logic จะมีสัญชาตญาณซามูไร คือแก้ตรงนี้ จับยามสามตาแล้วรู้เลยว่าจะไประเบิดตรงโน้น แล้ววิ่งไปสกัดบั๊กไว้ก่อนความเสียหายจะเกิด (ถ้าเป็นในหนัง ตอนนี้เป็นบทที่บั๊กร้องว่า “มืงรู้ได้ไง?!” :D) หลังจากที

By Chokchai
ประสบการณ์ TDD

ประสบการณ์ TDD

มันมีบางชั่วขณะ ที่ผมอินกับ Test-Driven Development (TDD) มาก จนอยากจะแนะนำทักษะนี้ให้คนเขียนโค้ดทั่วโลกที่สนใจเลย ผมคิดว่า ทักษะนี้มีผลเยอะมาก ๆ กับความรู้ความชำนาญในการเขียนโค้ดของผมทุกวันนี้ แต่ที่ผมไม่เคยอธิบายเป็นคำพูดออกมาได้คือ ทำไมนะ? เมื่อเช้าตอนกำลังอ่านเกี

By Chokchai