If change is hard, make it continuous

I will write a lot about PopcornFlow, a method that I created and refined throughout the last couple of years to introduce, accelerate and sustain continuous evolution through rapid experimentation.
(If you care about some background, you may want to read the second part of my interview at InfoQ).

“If change is hard, make it continuous.”

This is one of the core, perhaps most radical and counter-intuitive principles that guide PopcornFlow.

But it is quite simple really.

If I talk to people with a software development background, I like to draw parallels with what we learned with continuous integration & delivery.
In the good old days, when software integration only happened at the end (often after developing code for six months, a year or more), it was a blood bath.
Then someone thought: “If integration is painful, perhaps we should do it more often”.
So we tried.
Once a month at first, then once a week. Nightly builds become more common.
Then continuous integration became mainstream.
Today, the widely accepted notion is that by integrating software more often, you can detect and remove errors quickly.

Change is no different. If hard, make it small, frequent, traceable, and safe.

At a conference last week, I heard a keynote speaker, a change manager from a well-known consultancy firm, supporting the common practice of “motivating” people by tying the client’s staff bonuses to the outcome of their change initiatives.
The way I see it, when change is BIG (and imposed), there is a huge chance you’ll face a big fat “resistance” to it. So, companies quickly run out of options and resort to bribing people with organisational cancer-inducing extrinsic motivators.
It’s a dirty and dangerous hack at best. Research shows that it has negative medium-long term effects in the performance of knowledge workers.

PopcornFlow takes a different path. Involves people directly, it makes change small. It addresses or even eliminates the natural “reaction” to change by facilitating the co-design of safe experiments.
Whatever the method, if you tap into intrinsic motivators such as autonomy, mastery, and purpose, you’ll unleash incredible human potential.


P.S.: I use continuous integration as a parallel, but is there some other example that could work as well? Specifically, I’m looking for examples outside the software industry. Thoughts?