Change is hard. What if you could practice first?
Friday, November 20, 2015 at 1:33PM
David Skinner in Change, Change, ExperiencePoint, Innovation, Leadership, Legal Futures, Workshop

This isn't another piece about how you’ve got to change if you’re going to survive. If you don’t accept the need for change, or if you aren’t interested in learning how you can manage any kind of change better, then click here. (And good luck!)

If you're still with me, great, because organizations that excel at change can respond quickly to opportunities or threats, and align people around new ways of doing things. Those that master it build resilience and an enduring competitive advantage. But successful change requires buy-in, and creating buy-in is difficult work. If you get it wrong the first time, it's really hard to get the support you need to try again. What if you could practice change? Well, now you can. And we can help you.

In her recent blog, If Innovation’s Such a Hot Topic, Where Are All The Innovators?, my partner wondered why, given how much everyone is talking about innovation and change in law these days, it's so hard to find lawyers actually engaged in change. Her conclusion? It’s hard. Even when it's necessary.

Some people say lawyers hate change. I don't think so. I agree with my friend and Lean colleague Mark Graban. He doesn’t believe people hate change, but rather they “hate being uncomfortable when there are changes promised (or happening) that they don’t understand…when they don’t think it’s really an improvement.”

Change is certain. Buy-in is not.

As Karen pointed out in her blog, innovation and change are everywhere in our profession today. But while change is certain, buy-in is not. Learning how to prepare for change and maximize your buy-in will greatly increase your chances of success. And, as I learned recently, it can be a helluva lot of fun, too.

At Gimbal we improve things every day. Because improvement necessarily involves change, I decided I needed a much deeper understanding of how to help people manage the change that results from implementing Lean and legal process improvement. I wanted a model that would compliment our Lean Legal Boot Camp and other workshops. I was looking for a way to teach others how they can successfully manage the change process they seem to fear (or hate) so much, for a strategy and some tools to build in buy-in for Lean change initiatives.

Enter ExperiencePoint, a company that has spent almost 20 years training over 150,000 people worldwide on how to successfully implement change. They engage participants in experiential learning that challenges them to work through the essential steps of effective change using a thoughtfully designed framework.

Like Lean’s DMAIC model, the ExperienceChange model is designed to slow us down, to make us more analytical and deliberate in how we assess, time, and implement tactics that create the buy-in we need for our proposed changes. Lawyers are results-oriented. The model helps us resist the temptation to jump to the solution without first understanding the root cause of the resistance to the change we are proposing.

Lots of people have written about change theory. Many business schools and other organizations teach change management skills. What makes the ExperiencePoint workshop different—what makes it so compelling—is that it's a game. Applying established theory to real-life problems in sophisticated simulations, participants roll up their sleeves and work together on timing and tactics to build in the buy-in required to succeed.

Teaching real-world change...without taking real-world chances

I got to try their GlobalTech simulation during my certification workshop at ExperiencePoint’s Toronto headquarters. Participants came from all over the world, including across the US, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and Australia. Only a handful of us were from Canada. Some were connected with universities, others with global corporations, and others, like me, were consultants with backgrounds in business improvement strategies like Lean, Agile, and IDEO’s design thinking. We all had tremendous experience working with change. What drew us together was our common belief that there has to be a way to teach real-world change without taking real-world chances.

The experience was highly interactive, enlightening, and a whole lot of fun. There was some theory, but just the right amount. The real emphasis was on learning by doing, working in teams to tackle GlobalTech’s problems. The essence: GlobalTech’s business is suffering because of a change in the market. The business is stagnant and there is significant uncertainty about whether to look at growing opportunities in another commercial market as a way to save the business. (Hmmm, sound familiar?)

The goal of the simulation is to use a set of tactics to achieve 60% buy-in for a plan to shift the focus of GlobalTech’s operations away from military contracts in favour of the commercial market. The hitch is that you have a limited budget and a limited number of weeks in which to achieve the required buy-in, and each tactic has a cost in terms of both dollars and time.

We started with some basic groundwork. We interviewed 19 different stakeholders involved in all different aspects of the business. Armed with insights we got from those interviews, we organized our strategy for implementing certain of the tactics available to us. That's when the simulation really got interesting. Each tactic we implemented resulted in feedback from one more of the stakeholders, and our buy-in score went up or down depending on how the tactic was received by the 19 stakeholders.

As in life, we could not undo a tactic once implemented, so we were forced to consider the outcome of each play, and react and adapt our plan in real-time to the feedback.

What has any of this got to do with innovation in the law firm context?


It's not about the particulars of the fact pattern. It doesn’t matter whether your proposed change is transformational and enterprise-wide, or incremental and involves a more targeted group, department, or team. Nor does it matter whether the stakeholders are partners, associates, or people on the business and administrative side who support your practice.

Why? Because it's all about understanding the perspectives and interests of different stakeholders and how those can be at odds with each other. It's about developing the right mindset, the right sensitivities, reflexes, and timing, and understanding how, as a change agent, the way you approach, organize, and time different tactics and strategies can dramatically impact support for your matter what it is.

So it doesn't matter who you are or what you're changing. Whether you're implementing a new accounting system or moving to a paperless office or improving the way you conduct your litigation, the success of your change initiatives depends on how you build in your buy-in.

ExperiencePoint has successfully gamified change management learning, creating a compelling and fun learning experience that encourages trial and error in a controlled, safe setting. The simulations collapse what might otherwise be experienced over the course of a year in real time into just a day. 

It's like the real world, without the scars.

I found the learning process, the change model, and the simulation so compelling that I've partnered with ExperiencePoint. As a change management facilitator, I work with their ExperienceChange model and simulations to teach people the essential skills required to manage change and achieve the buy-in necessary for their improvement initiatives to be successful.

If you're interested in learning more, I'd be happy to demo the simulation for you, or run you and a few colleagues through a lunch & learn mini-challenge. You can see for yourselves how powerful (and fun) this approach to change can be, and how an ExperienceChange workshop can transform the way you implement change in your organization. For a quick taster, watch the video.

In the meantime, please leave us a comment below. We'd love to know how well (or not) your organization has managed and implemented changes.

You can also contact us directly. For more on innovation and change in law, you can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to our blog for regular (but not overwhelmingly regular) tips on going Lean in law.

Article originally appeared on gimbalcanada (
See website for complete article licensing information.