A fearless change management game

- Change Management

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by Christof Braun

Change is everywhere. Change is accelerating. Change is the new normal. If you don’t change, you get left behind. Nowadays, not changing is like moving backwards.

Also see: Change Management module

Are you scared yet? Or at least a little worried? Seriously, I believe all of the above statements are actually true, but I understand very well how it can be intimidating to be faced with all those changes coming at you at high speed. But deal with it you must! Some have an easier time with it. They are eternally optimistic, self-confident and willing to take on risks. Others less so. The fact that you need to move out of your comfort zone, that you have less of a chance predicting outcomes and that you are not sure if you even have the skills to master the changes ahead can be a frightening prospect.

I believe it is the responsibility of line managers as well as informal leaders to help the people they lead overcome the challenges they must confront when going through change processes. Of course, much research about change is available, many books have been written and courses abound. In this post, I want to point you to a particular change book that I like a lot and that was turned into a game, which I use in courses and coaching scenarios.

The book is called Fearless Change: Patterns for Introducing New Ideas by Mary Lynn Manns and Linda Rising.

Is there a pattern to change management?

Since my days as a software developer I have been a big fan of patterns. Finding reusable design fragments that can be applied successfully in various coding situations resounded much more with me than frameworks that all too often claimed universal applicability (which always turned out not to be the case – probably because it just is not possible). And so it is with patterns that you can apply in change situations. Some patterns work in some change systems but might not apply in others at all. Sometimes you need to combine patterns for them to be effective and other times you will have tweak them for your particular system context. And having an encyclopedia of change patterns from which to pick will give you a head start to master change processes you need to lead or accompany. This book is just such an encyclopedia with more than 40 change patterns, including Big Jolt, Corporate Angel, Smell of Success, and Whisper in the General’s Ear. In fact, the authors recently published a sequel (aptly titled More Fearless Change) adding another 15 patterns.

Try this change management game


These books alone are valuable assets for anyone faced with managing changes. Instead of just reading the books and trying to memorize as many patterns as possible, you can use the game Fearless Journey to apply the patterns to a concrete change problem you are facing. Deborah Hartmann-Preuss came up with the idea for the game during the Play4Agile unconference in 2011 and finished the design with her husband Ilja. In this game you define your change journey from the status quo to a new, challenging desired state. You and your fellow players think of obstacles that might be in your way when going through the change defined and during play you use the patterns from the books above to remove the obstacles in your path. It takes you on your very own change journey. It is a collaborative game. All players join forces and contribute patterns to overcome the obstacles.

I love this game and have used it many times in workshops and trainings to familiarize participants with the challenges and patterns for overcoming them. And the game is also helpful in real-world situations where you can actually tackle a change process that a team might be facing. If you are interested in trying the game, go to fearlessjourney.info where you will find all information you will need, links to a shop where you can purchase the game or downloads so that you can print and cut the game out yourself.

I would love to hear from you if you tried the game! Let me know in the comments below what worked and what didn’t. We can learn from each other how and when to best play it.

Photo: SHTTEFAN (Unsplash)

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