Change Patterns: Patterns for Innovation and Change Leadership


change patterns

“Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.” — Albert Schweitzer

What if you could be more effective at driving change?  What if you could introduce new ideas and actually get them adopted?  What if you could be more influential in making things happen?

You can.  Improve your success at introducing ideas, driving change, and making things happen by getting “Change Patterns” on your side.

Patterns Help Share and Scale Knowledge

Patterns are a very effective way to rapidly share strategies. You don’t create patterns, you discover and share them. That’s why patterns are a powerful tool for sharing experience and expertise. Ultimately, patterns help you build a shared vocabulary, and they are one of the most effective ways to “stand on the shoulders of giants.”

I’ve written about The Power of Patterns before, but here’s a quick recap.  Patterns help you rapidly share knowledge and expertise.  In architecture, Christopher Alexander, the father of the Pattern Language movement, used patterns to share profound architecture knowledge for designing buildings and communities. In software, we also use patterns to share profound knowledge for shaping software.

A pattern, just like it sounds, is simply a recurring problem and solution pair.  The pattern name is actually the name of the solution.  For example, “if you know the pattern “External Validation,” you know that it means “To increase the credibility of the new idea, bring in information from sources external to the organization.”  The pattern is a consolidated answer at your finger tips.

Patterns for Innovation and Change

Let’s look at an example of a shared vocabulary and language for driving change.  Here are the Change Patterns from the book, Fearless Change: Patterns for Introducing New Ideas, by Mary Lynn Manns and Linda Rising:

Ask for Help
Big Jolt
Brown Bag
Champion Skeptic
Corporate Angel
Corridor Politics
Dedicated Champion
Do Food
Early Adopter
Early Majority
Elevator Pitch
Emotional Connection
External Validation
Fear Less
Group Identity
Guru on Your Side
Guru Reviews
Hometown Story
In Your Space
Involve Everyone
Just Do It
Just Enough
Just Say Thanks
Local Sponsor
Location, Location, Location
Next Steps
Personal Touch
Pick Your Battles
Plant the Seeds
The Right Time
Royal Audience
Shoulder to Cry On
Small Successes
Smell of Successes
Stay in Touch
Step by Step
Study Group
Sustained Momentum
Tailor Made
Test the Waters
Time for Reflection
Town Meeting
Trial Run
Wake-up Call
Whisper in the General’s Ear

Examples of The Change Pattern Descriptions

If you know what’s behind each pattern, you instantly have a set of strategies at your finger tips.  Here is a sampling of some of the strategies, according to Manns and Rising:

  1. Big Jolt. To provide more visibility for the change effort, invite a high profile person into your organization to talk about the new idea.
  2. Brown Bag. Use the time when people normally eat lunch to provide a convenient and relaxed setting for hearing about the new idea.
  3. Champion Skeptic. Ask for Help from strong opinion leaders, who are skeptical of your new idea, to play the role of “official skeptic.” Use their comments to improve your effort, even if you don’t change their minds.
  4. Corporate Angel. To help align the innovation with the goals of the organization, get support from a high-level executive.
  5. Early Adopter. Win the support of the people who can be opinion leaders for the new idea.
  6. Guru on Your Side. Enlist the support of senior-level people who are esteemed by members of the organization.
  7. In Your Space. Keep the new idea visible by placing reminders throughout the organization.
  8. Piggyback. When faced with several obstacles in your strategy to introduce something new, look for a way to piggyback on a practice in your organization.
  9. Plant the Seeds. To spark interest, carry materials (seeds) and display (plant) them when the opportunity arises.
  10. Small Successes.    To avoid becoming overwhelmed by the challenges and all the things you have to do when you’re involved in an organizational change effort, celebrate even small success.
  11. Test the Waters.    When a new opportunity presents itself, see if there is any interest by using some of the patterns in this language and then evaluating the result.
  12. Trial Run.    When the organization is not willing to commit to the new idea, suggest that they experiment with it for a short period and study the results.

Note – You can find the full set of descriptions, as well as presentations and free articles, at the Fearless Change Home Page.

The beauty of the Change Patterns is that they are from real people, with real stories, with real results.  It’s effectively a distilled set of the proven practices for driving change and introducing new ideas.

If you want to be more effective at driving and influencing change,

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