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How the intention to experiment can trigger structural change

23 november 2022

We had the honour to coach a dynamic team of a large company on their journey towards change. It was a small team consisting of team members with tremendous potential. However, their potential could not fully blossom because their way of working was not organised in the most effective way to achieve optimal results.

We got to work together (pun intended) during the “How work works” training where we looked at how to optimise the way we let work flow through a process. We triggered them to ask themselves how to get the work as quickly and efficiently as possible through the workflow.

We covered the theory and made some suggestions. As could be expected, there was some resistance to the proposal among some team members. However, others were convinced they should ‘just have a go at it’. This willingness of some team members to experiment was contagious for the whole group and they decided to give it a go.

I have never tried that before, so I think I should definitely be able to do that.”, Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

We first put a limit to the amount of work that could be worked on simultaneously and as a consequence forcing team members to work together more. This proved to have a very positive effect and as soon as the team came to this realization, they were eager to take it further. If this change already proved so effective, what else could they try, what other experiments could they undertake?

Their ‘let’s have a try’-mentality was born! Experimenting became part of their team’s DNA and with the support of our coaching they went further than they thought possible at the beginning of their experimenting journey. They were able to set the work in progress limit just right in order to stimulate collaboration. By working together more, they could learn from each other, work more efficiently and working together became more fun and went ever more smoothly. The icing on the cake was that work was finished faster.

Experimenting is not the same as taking action

An experiment is an exercise to try and validate a hypothesis. Taking action however, is merely executing the actions and deciding beforehand what the expected outcome is. Although the result of an experiment is not known in advance, the process of experimenting can bring structural change and better collaboration.

So, conducting small experiments is always a good idea. If it turns out to be ineffective, it’s a great learning opportunity. If it turns out to be a great change, even the better. It is a win-win situation, with no major consequences. You have nothing to lose, on the contrary, even more to win.

The Flow Theory

A great tool for this experiment is the Flow Theory, where the aim is to optimise the flow of work. Rather than trying to change people, change the workflow. That will have more effect and impact.

Going for resource optimisation is not ideal, people cannot (easily) be changed – and that should not be your aim. But changing the process is easy, doable and will have a much greater impact. Changing the workflow rather than willingly or unwillingly trying to change people will increase productivity and overall performance in the workplace. So it is definitely worth the try. What do you have to lose? Exactly! Nothing.