Change Management 3: Wheel of Change and Fighting Guerrillas

Hello, Habr! This is my final post on Change Management, in which I want to talk about the Change Well model and its business benefits. We’ll look at how the guerrilla is different from the saboteur (in the context of implementing change, of course), how a sledgehammer can help accelerate organizational change, and what we can learn from game creators.

One of the approaches to managing change in organizations and not only is the Change Well model of Rosabeth Moss Kanter. According to the famous scientist from Harvard University, in order to successfully implement changes, we must focus on activities from 10 categories. As well as among the spokes of the wheel, it is impossible to single out more or less important ones. But if one or more of the spokes are deformed, it will not be easy to go far. The same can be applied to the implementation of changes.

  1. The first spoke emphasizes the importance of a shared vision. We talked about spreading a single view of change when we discussed the Cotter model in the last post. Here, all principles remain the same.

  1. Symbolism – great helper in promoting changes. One of the brightest examples of symbolic actions was demonstrated by the head of Haier, currently one of the world’s largest manufacturers of household appliances. In the 1980s, Haier was a small company that made refrigerators. One of the first steps of its leader, Zhang Ruimin, was a pivot to quality. But the statement remained a statement until the director came with an inspection to the plant. When the audit revealed a significant number of defects, the director picked up a sledgehammer and began to smash substandard refrigerators, and then instructed employees to do the same. The workers were shocked because the cost of each refrigerator was equal to their two-year salary. It was a vivid symbol of the abandonment of the past and a new approach to production, including thanks to which the company changed and became what it is today. By the way, the sledgehammer is still on display in the museum at the headquarters of Haier.

  1. Continuous leadership and clear control process necessary when implementing any changes. To achieve success, you need to assess risks, compare goals, check for deviations from the plan. It should be clear to everyone how we check the progress and success of the implementation.

  2. Training necessary for employees who first encounter new activities for themselves. These can be either master classes from invited experts, as well as internal specialists or information resources.

  3. “Sponsors” Are employees of the company with administrative weight who will support the changes at a high level, and “Champions” – those employees who start working in a new way earlier than others, develop new approaches and methods. They set an example to other employees with their experience and first victories.

  4. Quick winsthat can be communicated to employees fuel the general attitude towards change. As we noted earlier, it will be helpful to “prepare” the opportunities for quick wins even before the change begins.

  5. Best practice sharing and communication contribute to the diffusion of changes within the company. It rarely turns out that all departments are equally successful in introducing new practices; some people usually do it better than others. They can become sources of best practices and agents of change.

  6. Policies and procedures can be both some obvious unspoken rules and corporate laws enshrined at the document level. That is why standards need to be changed, and done on purpose.

  7. Control points are needed in order to assess whether the movement is in line with the planned milestones, and feedback from change sponsors helps to understand how what is happening is in line with the company’s business goals.

  8. And in the final it is important encourage distinguished – those who helped bring the process started to success. After all, for sure this is not the last process of change in the organization, and recognition is one of the important factors of motivation.

Conventionally, the wheel can be divided into “cultural” and “process engineering” segments, but this does not negate the importance of each of the “spokes” for achieving the goal.

Another interesting feature of this model is that the opposing spokes are connected to each other.

For instance:

  • Symbols and signals cannot be disseminated without communication

  • Training and tools make sure people will be able to realize conceived, and control is to make sure that really implement

  • Champions must be rewarded and publicly recognized

Personal experience

Even before working at Acronis, I had the opportunity to participate in a project to implement a security control system for a product. The project assumed a new approach to code security review – from the participation of the Security team in the design of new features, to manual penetration testing and automated fuzzing just before the release. And it was to be implemented in an organization with more than 200 developers distributed around the world.

From the very beginning, it was obvious that it was unlikely that all developers would accept the innovation with joy, because for them it meant additional control and added work. To mitigate rejection, we first clearly worked out new processes and stages of transition to new standards, developed a set of information materials and a series of trainings for employees. The next step was a formal presentation, but not all at once, but first to the pilot group, the feedback from which had to be processed before expanding the coverage.

It was a little unusual for me then that sometimes instead of being alert we were met with full acceptance and a desire to help, some employees were inspired by a new approach to security: they asked questions, gave feedback. We chose several people from different teams and offered them to become “security-champions”, that is, to be responsible for security-review in their teams. Some of them were allowed by their supervisors (read “sponsors”) to spend part of their time working with security. This was achieved by explaining to the managers all the advantages of working in the new process: after all, the security team not only proposed the process, but also had the right to veto the release if there were risks, and it is much easier to manage risks in advance.

Small local victories were achieved quite quickly, because we began to acquaint a couple of people with our approaches even before the full start of the project. The process gradually moved to other teams and, step by step, fairly large-scale changes were made throughout the organization.

The whole range of motivations

But, of course, not everyone reacted in the same way. When implementing any project, you will always meet those who sabotage innovations. According to the readiness to perceive everything new, it is possible to conditionally distinguish 7 categories of participants in the change process.

  • Missionaries and visionaries include senior executives and managers who know why change is needed and push it forward;

  • Active followers are Champions. They are ready to work in a new way;

  • Opportunists seek personal gain and seek to avoid personal problems. These people are happy to introduce new approaches if they are personally beneficial to them;

  • The largest group is the indifferent. They prefer to sit back and see “what happens next.” Such people have usually already participated in changes that have not been successful;

  • Resistance fighters can be secret enemies. Without saying anything in person, behind their backs they will discuss the changes in the most negative way. They nod when the leader speaks and then quietly sabotage the whole process;

  • Obvious opponents oppose change openly. They defend their opinions, and it is very important to communicate with them. It is they who can point out errors, shortcomings and other nuances;

  • “Emigrants” do not support any changes at all. They do not see any prospects in the company, and they seek to escape in any difficult situation. It’s practically useless to work with them.

When you are pushing change, you need to be clear about which employee you are dealing with. The style of communication will depend on this, as well as the methods of monitoring the fulfillment of requirements. Of course, it’s easier to figure out who’s who when starting implementation in one department. And that’s why we at Acronis prefer to implement changes gradually.

An insular approach to implementing change

The insular approach to change involves the introduction of innovations in any one department or division. The pilot department can be chosen arbitrarily, but it would be nice if he was generally inclined to try a new approach. In order to clearly distinguish a new department from others, it can be renamed or “branded”, for example, by issuing corporate T-shirts.

So, my division at Acronis was renamed from Performance QA to Performance Engineering at some point to clearly show that we are moving away from manual performance testing to more complex automated solutions. In production, for example, you can give people white uniforms and call the department “White” in contrast to the rest of the departments, or maybe buy black T-shirts and make security specialists “Black Team”.

New practices are being tested at the pilot stage. We bring them to a state close to ideal. An additional incentive can be an increase in the salary of department employees, because this will create a positive conflict between the “new” and “old”, which will push the entire company to accept the changes. Further, you can reform the remaining areas along the chain, gradually moving to new processes throughout the organization.

This is how we build new practices within Acronis. For example, using Jira to control all new features started with our team and then expanded to all teams with horizontal functions. That is, changes do not have to go from top to bottom or bottom to top. For them, different directions, movements are possible, which depend on specific people and processes.


One way or another, implementing changes in any company is a complex task. The larger the organization and the larger the change, the more difficult it is to implement. But with proper preparation, which includes finding like-minded people, internal PR, preparation of quick wins, and it can be dealt with. The main thing to remember is that the main limiting factor for any change is the inertia of the human psyche. Therefore, the more involvement there is, the higher the chances of success for any change.

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