Chapter 6: Change Velocity, How can you speed up your organisation’s?

Hello culture shockers,

Perhaps the most important bit about Change Velocity is thinking about how you can actively and deliberately speed up your organisation’s.

This checklist of 8 practical activities should help.

Let me know,



How can you speed up your organisation’s Change Velocity?

Here are 8 areas from which you can positively influence your organisation’s willingness and ability to change and change quickly. It’s a dry looking list, but trust me – the contents, if applied, are electric.

1.    Planning
2.    Structures
3.    Processes
4.    Systems
5.    Attitudes
6.    Hiring & firing
7.    Rewards
8.    Personal change

        1. Planning

Activity in brief:

Start planning in 6 month cycles. And plan in as high a contingency budget as you reasonably can to jump on unexpected opportunities or emergencies that arise. That’s it.


Most plans resist change. Or at least bad plans do. Although the world understandably craves control – people like to know what’s going to happen – progressive businesses need and take more flexible approaches to planning.

If you see the same world that I do, how on EARTH can we reasonably do a five year plan?

To improve your change velocity, you need to bring the planning horizon right back into the present day, back from those misty forecasted mountains out there in five years time of exceptional, uninterupted, White Swans-only business-as-usual. And with your opportunity/contingency budget, you can start to be more responsive to what happens along the way.

Sure, there’ll be resistance (and perhaps death threats) from others in your organisation – no matter how big or small. Maybe you’ll need to play the game a little bit, and fill in their long-term planning spreadsheets. But you can start planning in a more adaptive, agile way. It will spread (slowly) unless you’re a very senior manager, in which case ‘hey, get on with it!’.

2. Structures

Activity in brief:

Start creating and encouraging small, inter-departmental, cross-functional teams around projects and initiatives. Start doing what you would otherwise do alone or in a small group only from your own team instead in more mixed groups – bringing in ‘outsiders’.


Deliberately include people from parts of the organisation which your part usually competes with. And if you have the chance, invite the mavericky ones – the upcoming ambitious talents who know their way around and want to get stuff done. Set a peer-to-peer, collaborative tone in these groups, and allow the group to prove the power of collaboration over time. Keep bureaucracy to a minimum, and where keep things low-key and under the radar.

Remember Gore’s lattice structure in the People chapter? These small inter-departmental teams will massively improve connectivity in your organisation. They will build an important network of alliances that can be called on in crises.

Through our own consulting work we have found to our surprise that such groups can be seen as subversive – a clear sign that the organisation is badly silo’d and needs exactly this kind of approach to collaboration.

        3. Processes

Activity in brief:

Do a quick audit of the processes you have which mean that it takes you hours, days or weeks to respond to something that you need to be able to respond in minutes to (think of the train guy and his ‘twenty seconds to prepare and respond’).


Reflect on what’s blocking this in your organisation. Where do the problems with responding quickly lie? How serious are they? What can you do about them? What are the costs (current or potential) of the delays caused by this bureaucracy?

Now put this in a short document which clearly and accurately describes the costs and potential worst case scenarios and get the processes changed.

If you are a senior manager or CEO in a large organisation start encouraging your people to identify and flag up ways that the organisation is constraining their ability to respond quickly. You could also consider the approach that Indian systems integrator HCL takes by allowing any employee to hold support functions like finance, HR, admin and senior management to account by raising a ‘ticket’ on from the employee to the department in question, underpinned with a strict and transparent commitment to reply within certain parameters.

        4. Systems

Activity in brief:

Get some Buzz Monitoring set up, or – if it already is elsewhere in the organisation – get access to the relevant reports. Then feed the snippets and insights you get into your teams, your colleagues and obviously into your own planning, thinking and doing. Congratulations, you are now moving at close to realtime!


Buzz monitoring is technology that automatically scours the web for mentions of keywords of your choice. It is a way for you to get closer to realtime by stayng more up to date with it happening in the outside world. Appropriate keywords might be your brand name, the product or services names that you are responsible for, your competitors brands or your customers names – it depends on whatever it is that you need to be on top of.

A very simple but excellent place to start is Google Alerts. You can set up a Google Alert in seconds, and then Google will email you ‘mentions’ of those keywords either ‘as it happens’, daily or weekly (I recommend daily for a good balance between being overwhelmed and being out of date by the time you get them.)

At the higher end offering more sophisticated filtering and reporting are buzz monitoring technologies like those provided by my personal buddies at Brandwatch and a host of others. If you work in a corporation, someone somewhere will almost certainly have subscribed to one of these providers – find out who!

    5. Attitudes

Activity in brief:

Nurture more agile approaches to getting stuff done. Send a motivated project manager (or go yourself) on an Agile Project Management course. Start using agile to manage your projects.


Spread awareness and excitement around you about the ‘Always in Beta’ approach to launching new things – it doesn’t matter if its a new expenses process or a glossy new piece of

Celebrate failure. Talk about your own failures, don’t hide them. If you have one, tell your boss that you believe the organisation needs to be more supportive of failure and that you’re going to start talking about failure more. Encourage and reward failures in your own team. If you’re brave enough, do a Church of Fail! See People

        6. Hiring & Firing

Activity in brief:

Be more rigorous about who is right for the organisation and the journey it’s going on – to get that right, you have to raise the standards on who gets hired and – necessarily – who gets fired.


Simple but will take time to have an effect, as hiring and firing generally don’t happen over night, but essentially what you are trying to do here is increase the blend of people you have in your organisation who are change-friendly. So hire people that appear to and can evidence their ability to flex and their welcoming of change and evolution. These people will be more likely to be able to demonstrate self-awareness of their habits and perhaps of habits they have changed. They will be energized and excited about change, possibility, challenge.

The other practical reality is that to make this work you and your organisation will need to move people on that absolutely refuse to and bitterly resist change. It is not good for them to be in an organisation that is pushing to adapt and move quickly, and it is definitely not good for everyone else that is trying to do so. The word ‘firing’ here, in this book, might seem out of place. A little harsh, a little old school, a little flippant maybe. But as my friend Will Morey puts it, this is incredibly important: “Breaking up is hard to do.  Get better at it. Learning how to let people move on from the organisation is critical.”

If the future of your organisation depends on its ability to change (which it does, basically) then hiring and firing are absolutely crucial in getting the best possible group of people in the organisation to adjust to whatever the future throws at them, both in the moment and in market changes that happen over time.

    7. Rewards

Activity in brief:

Make changing and evolving a part of everyone’s job, and hugely reward those efforts to change.


Build into your own role description and those of the people in your team or wider organisation clear responsibilities about changing and evolving the organisation. What gets managed, gets done, and by explicitly making elements of change velocity peoples jobs, you vastly improve the likelihood of it actually happening. So incentives and rewards are powerful allies in helping shift your team, your division or your start up team towards this culture of ‘we embrace change’.

Ensure that you ask any reports to include examples of positive change that they have made both in the organisation and in themselves in their annual reviews, and be sure to reward them for doing so – both in financial and non-financial ways. (In our team we have a shield of win that peers pass from one to another to celebrate success – the point is that it isn’t only about job descriptions, you can have fun with it.)

    8. Personal change

Activity in brief:

Those endlessly challenging words from Gandhi: ‘You must be the change you wish to see in the world’.


To really make this happen you will have to speed up your own personal change velocity. To embrace change personally, to role model the personal development necessary to overcome the habits and behaviours that resist change, to dance in the moment when crises or unexpected events happen, to roll with it, to accept and then celebrate failure in yourself and in others and the learning that it brings. Simple really, yes? No! Terribly difficult, and incredibly rewarding. No matter what level you operate at, you must lead in this. You must be the change you wish to see.


In a world where change is constant, and possibly accelerating, our businesses will thrive or decay according to how quickly they can adapt. The media and communication environment that we all now exist and participate in is close to realtime: things happen, everybody knows about it, with a 20 second lag (and falling).

To thrive, to reach for our Purpose of Significance, and make a difference to the world, we have to increase our change velocity. As a side effect, we gain huge advantages – we move faster and better than others and so gain rewards, we individually become more flexible, more open and less resistant to the world around us and so gain rewards. Let’s move. Now!

Next, appropriately given its role in change velocity and openness, we will look at how to harness Technology.


So that’s us done with Change Velocity. Next up? Technology…

Feedback in comments here on the blog, twitter @willmcinnes / #cltrshck or email to

One thought on “Chapter 6: Change Velocity, How can you speed up your organisation’s?

  1. I don’t know abut this chapter. Except that I don’t really agree with the premise.

    I don’t think things are speeding up.

    I’ll probably regaled with stories of how many books are printed, how much IP is developed in a given time. But to me those stories indicate how many books are printed, how much IP is developed in a given time. Not that anything is speeding up.

    I have heard this story all my working life and just don’t believe it.

    That said, I do think there is something valuable in what you are saying – if what you are saying is speed up the cycle of learning.

    Learn fast works for me. That means shorter testing cycles.

    But it doesn’t mean throwing away planning. Or long-range strategy in the sense of clear direction (if not in the sense of short-term approach).

    Churchill said something about planning didn’t he? Plans are useless – planning is essential. Or something like that. That makes sense to me.


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