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InfoQ Homepage News The Five Principles of Very Fast Organizational Transformations (VFOT)

The Five Principles of Very Fast Organizational Transformations (VFOT)

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In January 2019, Silke Hermann and Niels Pflaeging released their Very Fast Organization Transformation (VFOT) model, based on five principles that draw their origins in foundational and established theories: open source, open space and social technologies.

Deep and lasting organizational transformations are known to be difficult to achieve. But according to Hermann and Pflaeging, it is possible to achieve a profound and successful transformation within few months to 18 months when we follow the guidance and five principles they defined in the VFOT model.

Principle 1: Principled, not ambiguous

Principle-based theories, as opposed to mechanistic frameworks, do not promote tools, rules, best practices or out of context cookie-cutter solutions. Instead, they must be socialized, and their adoption is voluntary, fostering self-organization. Principles composing a theory are intertwined, synergetic, cohesive, therefore indivisible. According to Hermann and Pflaeging,

Principles are the only way, and the natural way, to convey the nature of complex systems to social groups.

An example of principled theory is the Agile Manifesto and its twelve principles.

Principle 2: Timeboxed, not indefinite

Similarly as in Scrum’s timeboxed Sprints used to deliver increments of products, Hermann and Pflaeging recommend to design timeboxed transformation iterations. Timeboxes offer the benefits of breaking down the work, without reducing the desired scope. Timeboxed execution creates a sense of progression, accomplishment and results, therefore promotes safety and increase engagement. Through the feedback process, it also accelerates delivering on most valuable goals.

Principles 3: Radically inviting, not imposing and Principle 5: All at once, not stacked

According to Hermann and Pflaeging, 96% of change management approaches are imposed on people, resulting in demotivation and disengagement. VFOT, as are open space practices, prefers shifting from imposing to inviting with an attractive value proposition, and from selecting a group of people to inviting everyone at once. Not everyone may respond, but those who accept will support in an engaging way that will boost the transformative initiative from the beginning. Selecting few people to lead a transformation and having these people impose their method onto the rest of the organization proved to be a broken approach. VFOT is inclusive of everyone and embrace an organization’s collective intelligence. In order to scale engagement, Hermann and Pflaeging recommend adopting social technologies such as open space events and practices.

These two principles combined contribute greatly to the speed of the transformation: people are called to not only share work initiatives together, but also be integral part of shaping the system itself. As people engage in developing the organization together, it makes it more natural, easier and faster for them to commit to its transformation all at once.

Principle 4: Whole-system, not piece-meal

Hermann and Pflaeging recognize that most organization transformative frameworks offer a piece-meal approach, where departments, functional areas, practices and people are siloed and phased. Dividing a transformation by its current organizational structure result in superficial and isolated transformations, rather than in a profound and holistic transformation of the core system itself.

As the VFOT model and its five principles are currently being socialized, it sparked off several reactions. Some discussions reported the absence of real adoption cases or success stories. The difficulty of shifting executives from a controlling mindset to a fully inclusive and collaborative way of working was also identified as an immediate blocker to successful VFOT

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Community comments

  • # of principles

    by Damien Corr,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    Was it just me or were there only 4 principles discussed?

  • Re: # of principles

    by Shaaron A Alvares,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    Hi Damien, Principles 3 and 5 were combined because they are related:
    Principle 4 is inviting rather than imposing and Principle 5 is everyone at once rather than stacked or selective. I combined them to be Inviting Everyone at once. Thanks for the feedback, good point.

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