Q&A on the Book More Fearless Change

| Posted by Ben Linders Follow 16 Followers on May 19, 2015. Estimated reading time: 14 minutes |

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The book More Fearless Change: Strategies for Making Your Ideas Happen by Mary Lynn Manns and Linda Rising provides patterns that can be used to drive change in organizations in a sustainable way. It contains updated descriptions of the 48 patterns from the book Fearless Change and provides 15 new patterns.

You can download a sample of More Fearless Change to get an impression of this book.

InfoQ interviewed Rising and Manns about how people are viewing change in organizations, the purpose of patterns and the benefits that organizations can get from using them, the new patterns that are described in More Fearless Change and the insights were added to the existing patterns, and their expectations about what the future will bring us in organizational change.

InfoQ: Ten years ago you published the book Fearless Change, and now there's your new book More Fearless Change. Can you give a brief overview of what in your opinion has happened  in this decade on how people are viewing change?

Rising: I often joke that Mary Lynn and I work in 10-year increments :-)! It took us 10 years to write the first book and it's been 10 years since Fearless Change appeared. There are two good bits of news about that process: (1) Mary Lynn and I have had fun learning together. We both still have an abiding interest in patterns and in change; and (2) we have been able to see a lot of change, both in ourselves and in how the rest of the world reacts to our patterns. The biggest impact that I see, both in myself and in the community at large, is a growing awareness of the research in cognitive neuroscience. There are tremendous advances in our understanding of how our brains work. The gratifying thing about much of this research is that it directly supports the Fearless Change patterns and helps us as authors and users understand why the patterns work. A good example of that is one of my favorite patterns: Do Food. We have always known that it was effective, but now we understand that we have been sharing food for tens of thousands of years and are now hardwired to be more open and trusting of those with whom we break bread. It almost seems counterintuitive, in an age where most of us are watching our waistlines, that food is such a powerful influencer!

Manns: Linda and I never stopped ​our work in researching and ​documenting our observations about leading change.  We have continued to read about the topic and, most importantly, talk to people who were leading change. We continued to use our patterns too.  I had the opportunity to lead a 2-and-a-half year change project at my organization and sincerely believe it wouldn't have happened if I hadn't had the patterns as my tools.  Every time I encountered a ​​challenge​ (and there were many!)​, I determined which pattern(s) ​to ​use.  This experience, along with others during the 10-year period since the first book, only helped us become even more excited about the power of these patterns when they are in the hands of someone ​who is ​trying to make a change happen.

InfoQ: What made you decide to publish More Fearless Change?

Rising: We have been working on More Fearless Change since Fearless Change was published. We are pattern addicts :-)! Over the past 10 years we have continued to learn about the original patterns and notice new patterns. The new ideas have been documented and shared at pattern conferences or PLoPs. We have published several papers about these new patterns and finally realized that we had enough -- both new patterns and "insights" -- for a new book.
Manns: Linda stated it well.  Since we never stopped studying what leaders of change do, and ​never stopped ​ writing patterns that document successful practices ​ in leading change​, it seemed like a natural next step to publish our new patterns and, at the same time, update our original collection of patterns with what we learned since the first book was written.​

InfoQ: The book provides patterns that can be used in organizational change. Can you elaborate on the purpose of patterns and the benefits that organizations can get from using them?

Manns:​  ​The primary purpose of a pattern is to document a common, recurring problem with ​the solution that has been validated.  This is why they are called "patterns"​ -- because the problem and solution have been seen in more than one instance. So, each of the Fearless Change patterns is not simply the idea of one person-- rather, each one has been used by different types of change leaders in different environments.  Therefore, others can use the patterns ​knowing that they have been shown to work.  In addition, each pattern documents the benefits and challenges of using ​ it​.  Therefore, leaders of change can not only feel confident in the solution, but will also know the consequences.  And, when each individual pattern is combined with other patterns (in the form of a pattern language), the organization now has a collection of powerful strategies for addressing complex problems.  This is valuable because leading change doesn't involve the use of only one pattern and you're done-- rather, leading change is a very complex activity. Therefore, a collection of related patterns (a pattern language) is valuable for addressing the many problems a change leader is likely to face when leading organizational change.

Rising: I'm often called upon to lead retrospectives in organizations. I notice that even though individual teams and organizations feel that their problems are unique, the same challenges seem to appear everywhere, over and over. This phenomenon was also observed by Christopher Alexander in the 1970s in architecture. He realized that if there were a way to document these recurring problems and share their successful  solutions that we could see these issues more clearly and apply tested solutions. The key, of course, is to give the problem/solution a name. What the patterns community has then created is a multitude of "pattern languages" where the names of patterns in a given domain can be used to have a conversation about struggles and strategies. It's very effective.

InfoQ: There are 15 new patterns in More Fearless Change. Can you share some insights from one of those patterns for the InfoQ readers?

Rising: I like all the new patterns, but one of my favorites is Easier Path. I'm happy to see that the U.K. government has incorporated a "Nudge" unit and is building on research to improve government policy. The essence of the Nudge unit and Easier Path is to influence behavior by making the easiest choice for users be the one you want. Instead of fining or punishing or arguing to encourage people to do what you want, make it easy for them to follow you. Studies have shown that simply making trash cans handy helps reduce litter. Putting fruit and vegetables first in a cafeteria line makes it more likely that children will eat healthier lunches. Simply asking people to do something will make it more likely that they will do it, especially if you are smiling. We often believe that our new idea will improve the lives of others, it is now incumbent upon us to simply show evidence of that to our users by making their lives easier.

Manns:​  ​I too am very excited about all our new patterns.  I think the Emotional Connection pattern is our biggest contribution in this new book.  In our first book, many of our original 48 patterns considered the importance of ​addressing how your listeners feel about the change​ .  We added more in this book, including Emotional Connection.​  This is because we know that they leader can't just present a collection of facts and people will say "sure, I get that and I agree with everything you say"​."  ​Instead, the Emotional Connection pattern (and many of our ​other ​patterns) recognizes that people are not simply logical beings-- we all have feelings that are often irrational ​ and illogical​.  Therefore, in order to be successful, a leader must recognize the feelings in each individual she is trying to persuade.  When I do Fearless Change presentations, I always remind people that they must not only communicate the facts but must also ​​help people *care* about the facts.  Patterns such as Emotional Connection, Personal Touch, ​Imagine That, ​Shoulder to Cry On, and others, help the change leader do this.

InfoQ: How did you pick the new patterns? Why did you add these ones?

Manns:​  ​We documented the patterns we heard over and over again. There were other problem-solution combinations that we heard but didn't have enough "known uses" to feel that they were truly patterns.  Therefore, we documented only the problem-solution combinations (patterns) we believed truly work.​

Rising: Patterns are based on experience. They are not theoretical constructs that are worked out in a logical proof. Over time, both Mary Lynn and I have had our personal experiences provide evidence of missing patterns and we have heard from readers about other patterns. These spark ideas that we test on each other and then share with others, especially at PLoP conferences to make sure it's not just our good idea but a best practice that can be documented as a pattern. Over time, we have gathered increasing evidence for the patterns we ultimately decided to publish. They are the strongest with the most evidence from our own use and that of others.

InfoQ: Are there any patterns that were initially considered but weren't added to the book? What made you decide to leave them out?

Rising: I think we always have lots of "other" patterns :-)! Often it's a case of not seeing enough evidence or not being sure what the pattern is. For example, I identified a possible pattern after an interview with someone who had worked in the Peace Corps--let's call him "Tom." He said that he had spent a lot of time with a local "guru" -- a powerful influencer in the community. Tom felt that the guru was not convinced of Tom's ideas and would not, in the long run, be an ally, but Tom never gave up. In the end, as he was leaving to return home, Tom realized he had wasted an inordinate amount of time with the guru, that he should have looked for other, more promising allies. Mary Lynn and I both have experienced this. We talked about an initial name for the pattern -- something like "Don't waste time on those you feel won't follow through" -- not really a memorable choice. We've added to the pattern over time but we don't feel it's "ready." The pattern community doesn't talk much about pattern maintenance or pattern grooming--how to grow patterns over time. Patterns never spring full blown, ready to go and they are never really finished. You keep learning about them over time. At some point, we have decided that some are ready for prime time, but we are always tweaking and polishing them.

Manns:  ​​Your question reminds me of the many emails and discussions Linda and I shared about possible patterns.  Just as in the situation Linda described, we continue to make observations about what leaders of change are doing and continue to discuss their strategies.  When we observe ​something that appears to be interesting, our discussion with each other ​often goes ​something like, "I know of a change leader that did <this>... so, could <this> possibly be a pattern?"  We ​usually​  write it down and then consider where else we have seen <this>.  We continue​​ to study it as a possible pattern.  Only when we s​ee it appear in other contexts, by other leaders of change, d​o​ we then document it as a successful solution to a common problem in leading change-- in other words, only then d​o we consider it to be a pattern​-- and only then, did we​ include it in the book.

InfoQ: You've added insights to the patterns that were published in Fearless Change previously. Can you give some examples of things that you or others learned from applying the patterns?

Manns:  ​One of the biggest things I have learned since the first book is how important is for the change leader to communicate the message about a new idea in different ways at different times.  Our first book had the “In Your Space” pattern which stressed the importance of keeping a new idea in and around the "spaces" of the people you are trying to persuade.  In our new book, we changed the name to “Persistent PR” to stress how vital this is.  The change leader needs to create different ways to communicate the message because different forms will catch the attention of different people. And, since people are busy, they often need to see the idea more than once in order for it to truly catch their attention.  Most importantly, the plan for Persistent PR needs to appeal to both the head and the hearts of your listeners-- they must hear the facts and must then feel they can believe these facts and care enough about the new idea to accept it.

Rising: The pattern "Just Say Thanks" was one we considered not including in the original book. It really seems so trivial, just "common sense." But as we sent the original patterns out for review, we heard from many readers who said they felt unappreciated in their work. No one ever says more than a "Thanks to the team for all your hard work." So we included the pattern in our original book. Now over the past 10 years we have seen lots of validation for the pattern, including stories from those who initially thought it was (as we did) just a trivial exercise. Then they tried it and saw how powerful it was and that it really, truly works. We've grown unhappy with the name "Just say thanks" and feel that the new name does a better job of capturing the intent. I hope our readers will like and use "Sincere Appreciation."

InfoQ: What do you expect that the future will bring us in organizational change?

Rising: My hope is that more organizations will come to appreciate all the work in cognitive neuroscience that says we are loaded with cognitive biases. The straightforward, just tell them why this is a good idea and they will line up for it, approach has never worked but now we know more about why. The Fearless Change patterns work because they rest on this research, so we can hope that, just as the design patterns changed the way developers talk about architecture, design, and code, that our patterns will change the way organizations think about and talk about change.

Manns:  My wish is that more and more individuals in organizations will believe they CAN be a leader of change-- no matter what their status is-- whether a new employee, a CEO, or any type of person at any level, I'm hoping any person who feels he/she has a good idea will be willing to try to make it happen, with one Baby Step (one of the patterns) at a time.
​One last thought--​  Someone recently asked me for what I believe is the secret to working together in a partnership for 20 years, through the creation of two books. I replied that Linda and I have a very similar work ethic-- both of us are willing to work hard with a Sustained Momentum (one of our patterns :-)   Most importantly, we have a deep respect for each other-- we may not always agree, but that is what makes the work, and everything we create, even better!

Rising: Amen :-)!

About the Book Authors

Linda Rising is an independent consultant who lives near Nashville, Tennessee. Linda has a Ph.D. from Arizona State University in the area of object-based design metrics. Her background includes university teaching as well as work in industry in telecommunications, avionics, and strategic weapons systems. She is an internationally known presenter on topics related to agile development, patterns, retrospectives, the change process, and the connection between the latest neuroscience and software development. Linda is the author of numerous articles and has published several books: Design Patterns in Communications, The Pattern Almanac 2000, A Patterns Handbook, and with co-author Mary Lynn Manns, Fearless Change: Patterns for introducing new ideas and released in 2015 More Fearless Change. Her web site is:

Mary Lynn Manns is the co-author of the popular book, Fearless Change, published in 2005 and translated into Japanese and Chinese. Her new book, More Fearless Change, is newly published in March 2015. She has done numerous professional presentations at a variety of conferences and in organizations that include Microsoft,, Avon, and Proctor & Gamble. At UNC Asheville, she has been awarded the title of Distinguished Professor of Social Relations for her work in teaching students how to develop their ideas for leading change and competing as social entrepreneurs.

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