the power of case studies in change

The power of case studies in change.

Last week, I had the pleasure to attend another insightful ACMP workshop presented by one of our very own ACMP members, Lee Anne Davies. The workshop was on how to bring about the adoption of change through the use of mini-case studies. Being one who loves a good story, and hearing that the idea of using case studies was her proven approach, I was intrigued to attend. Lee Anne is a seasoned change practitioner, a published author, a respected facilitator in the Agile community, and has experience in enabling significant change in many sectors such as the financial, government, and non-profit arenas. With the challenge to move her enterprise from a change maturity level of zero into an enabled change maturity state with no change team, no change tools, and a company with poor change history – I needed to see how she successfully did it. And did it she did!

The workshop was framed around three case studies that she presented: The impact of the Gutenberg Printing Press, the Segway, and a fictitious ice-cream parlour. Her creativity in explaining and walking us through the model was intriguing. We all listened with baited breath and she took us on this imaginary journey of how an ice-cream parlour ventured into a new business opportunity, and what this change impact would have upon this little boutique company from the lens of the CEO. I loved how she very craftfully incorporated some Lean change tools such as the Blast Radius to help identity her impacted stakeholders. She also brought in a Change Impact & Readiness Plan Canvas that gives a practitioner a really nice succinct overview of the change effort before them at that moment in time. She shared a case study of a change failure (the Guttenberg Printing Press) as the key stakeholders were not prepared for this change (i.e. there were no distributors, and the education sector was not ready for this change). Another change failure to success case study was the Segway. While the company was successful from a technical lens when the Segway was being designed, it failed considerably at the adoption stage. The company did not do its research on how it will be used. It didn’t have a clear understanding of its key stakeholders and their needs. However, as time passed, the company did some serious reflection, applied some proven change tactics, and turned itself around and is quite successful today.

The advantage of using case studies as a platform to help explain how change is done successfully is that they are constructed to generate an in-depth multi-faceted understanding of a complex issue in its real-life context. This is done using the craft of story-telling which incorporates high engagement among the stakeholders and in turn helps build trusting relationships (such an important element to the success of a change initiative). They can be presented in an agile environment, and are a great tool to help identify and measure success all in one go. Now that’s a great way to help your stakeholders gain a good understanding of the change and become actively engaged during the process – especially if you are limited in resources, as Lee Anne was.

So.. next time you see an ACMP workshop put on by one of your fellow ACMP members, I encourage you to attend and come and explore/learn new techniques that you can use to add to your change toolkit, as you help drive change in the valuable work you do.

John Boylan