A Look Inside Lean Change Management Part II: Practicing What We Preach

Some of you know the story of Lean Change Management (LCMA), but here’s a quick refresher.

The ideas started percolating around 2008. I spoke at a few conferences from 2010-2012, discussing some of the ideas, and then I published a video series on Pearson Live Lessons and Safari Books. Finally, the first version of the book came out in 2012, chapter by chapter on Leanpub.

Jurgen Appelo and Vasco Duarte started an experiment called Happy Melly Express (HME). HME was designed to be a middle ground between big publishers and self-publishing. Jurgen became my writing coach, tested out the M30 Feedback Wrap on me, and Vasco created HME.

We crowd-funded the book and offered a Godfather package. The promise was that whoever bought the Godfather package would organize the first workshop based on the book.

There was no workshop at the time, nor were there plans for one. Nor were there plans for LCMA to turn into what it has become. 

In my last post, I talked about how my past as a developer helped me automate more or less all of my business, freeing me up to work on stuff that matters more.

But eventually, I hit the ceiling, and Sarika Kharbanda joined as my first carbon-based hire.

It’s easy to talk about values and principles, purpose or strategy, but none of that matters unless you’re congruent. 

We practice what we preach here, and here are the experiments and lessons we’ve learned after finishing our first quarter’s objectives.

How we decided on salary

When Sarika started, we agreed that part-time makes sense as she still has about 9 million other things going on. I had to add “take a nap” to her recent performance evaluation; otherwise, she’d never sleep!

We agreed that “$X” for “Y hours” up to a maximum made sense because neither knew what was needed. Here’s what we did:

I asked her to take some time to think about what was fair. I did the same. Then I suggested we both type in the amount in the Zoom chat and hit ‘send’ on the count of three. Then I suggested, whatever it was, we split the difference.

We both hit ‘send’ and were close to alignment, so we met in the middle. Then we agreed that it might be less some months, but we’d keep the ceiling intact for now.

Agreeing on how to work together

We decided to work iteratively. Not “agilely”, iteratively. There’s a difference. We check in every day, plan the week on Monday, and review and retrospect on Friday. You could say we follow Scrum, but we don’t. It’s just easier to book-end things every week.

We’ve both miss commitments sometimes, but we talk daily, and our view is, our mental health matters more. There’s nothing so critical that we should burn ourselves out just because it was in the plan.

That said, we work hard. We often talk about how we often feel that we could do more, but we agree to pace ourselves. We’re both workaholics because we love it.

Last week, we decided to forget anything unfinished after our retrospective, and we both took the day off.

Solving collaboration problems

Like most companies, we use Slack. We were on Slack a lot early on, and I found it hard to focus because I wanted to remain available for questions, especially since Sarika was new. We decided to create the Batphone. We agreed that anything that can’t wait until the next standup, that happens everyday, could be put into the Batphone Slack channel and then the magic happens:

Preventing Burnout

We are both workaholics. We’ve often talked about ‘feeling bad’ when we have energy at the end of the week because we could have done more. Then we realized, it didn’t matter, and our sanity mattered more.

In fact, that’s why we did the batphone video. I suggested we take the day off and do something dumb! We joke around a lot.

Experimentation and OKRs

We teach OKRs in our workshops and the idea of using diagnostics and measurements. Today we added another dimension: sentiment.

One of our objectives was to increase overall engagement with our social channels. We thought sponsoring events would help with that. We created offers, created tracking codes and had well-defined measurements about whether it would be worth it.

It turns out, as far as the conference sponsorship goes, they were a waste of time and money. (Sorry if you’re one of the people we sponsored, this isn’t a reflection on you…it’s a reflection on an oversaturated market of virtual events and the fact that foot traffic and in-person connection works better than virtual)

That said, the other activities around the conference were beneficial, like engaging with speakers, people on social media, and the different activities that involved promoting the conference.

Our metrics showed the KRs failed miserably. Hardly anyone clicked our banners, viewed our videos or engaged at the event. But, the activities we did to promote the events were wildly successful. 

So our sentiment was 5 out of 5, but the actual metrics completely missed the mark. Traditional thinking would say it failed I guess. But we learned a lot and had some surprisingly good results that we didn’t anticipate.

To track ‘sentiment’ we just did a fist-of-five:

Finally, and this should be obvious to just about everybody, it’s impossible to correlate an isolated event to an outcome. OKRs helped us focus our actions to find out what matters the most to us, our customers, and our fans. We probably could have just as easily used ‘smart numbers’ or any other metrics framework.


One of the other intangibles from our review was how we’ve noticed many other organizations copying us. I know that sounds egotistical, but it’s true. In some cases, direct copy/paste of our work! The purpose isn’t to out these people, and I can’t because the main offender already removed their Instagram posts! 

The lesson: Market validation happens when people steal your ideas, and that’s good for all of us!

Experimenting with the Celebration Grid

Off the cuff, we decided to shake up our retrospective and used the Celebration Grid from M30

As we went through it, we realized we had already talked about what experiments we did, which ones worked, and what our lessons were.

The Celebration Grid gave us an extra dimension to go deeper. The conference sponsorship was a great example of this. Initially, we said the KR failed miserably and that it was a waste of time. But it wasn’t. We learned a lot.

We learned spending money sponsoring events doesn’t matter to us.

We learned that the engagement around the events was fantastic, but we don’t need to sponsor the events to do that.

What’s Next?

Sarika is still working on her post, so you can understand her perspective! All I can say is, we learned plenty this quarter:

  • we started too much but fixed our WIP problem halfway through the quarter
  • we both discovered some excellent movies to watch since we love movies
  • when we’re feeling the beginnings of burning out, we stop working or do dumb stuff (which is mainly suggested by me…I blame my teenagers for all the stupid memes and youtube videos they show me)

I couldn’t put our company values in a handbook because even though there have been plenty over the years, from Valve to Netflix, there’s a certain level of bullshit in those artifacts. You can’t work like us, because you’re not us. You can copy what we do, but it won’t be the same.

All I know is, treating people with respect, being open to ideas, and working on becoming aware of our own biases is how we run things around here and it’s working great so far!


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