How to Change An Organization

I’ve recently commented on a conversation in the Agile Coaching group on LinkedIn. I’m reproducing my comment here because it relates with a misconception that I see often.

The question it started from was, in my words, “Is a training enough to change the way a department works?”. My answer is below.

Change doesn’t happen with a training. A training just sets the common ground for everyone to speak the same language and understand the same things.

For change to happen, you need much more.

First, you need change agents in the department who have enough leadership and knowledge to move things forward. These people often need advice for how to help the change and for how to solve various issues. That’s a first role for a coach: advising, supporting.

Second, you need feedback on your progress. Are we doing the right things or not? That’s the second role of a coach: give feedback based on experiences with other teams and companies.

Third, you need someone to call when the change reverts. People will turn back to do what they always did when there’s a crisis. This is the third role of a coach: make sure the change sticks.

None of it is possible without a real commitment to change. So, the first question you need to ask is: why make the change? What’s the expected benefit? What’s the ROI?

If you don’t have answers to these questions then you can get a training, only not for changing. Get a training for certifications, for fun, or just to learn a new thing. But don’t expect change to happen just with a training.

Note: you don’t necessarily need an external coach for the three roles above. But a lot of time, energy and skill is required to make change stick. Good external coaches will help speed up the process.

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