The Fearless Change Mission

The change team of an international company was assigned to introduce new job descriptions in one of their regions leading to a clearer separation between customer service and operations affecting the work of 300 employees. The team consisted of change and communications experts and specialist trainers. Their task was to design and implement appropriate change and roll-out activities for this initiative.

We facilitated a change preparation playshop introducing Linda Rising‘s Fearless Change Patterns using LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® materials and methodology. The learning objective was to introduce the patterns as a methodology and to playtest their impact for the given change.

This post summarises the steps of the playshop with some examples and feedback from the participants. You will also find some helpful links at the end – in case you want to run a similar session.

Building the Playing Field for Fearless Change

The team started with building their mental models of their change with the help of LEGO® bricks and used the models to exchange their views on their role, on what they wanted to achieve and what key influences there were.

After a short warm-up session the following four building challenges were mastered:

  • Your role: Participants start with exploring their own role during the change initiative and what contribution they will make in terms of skills, experience, know-how… (see example #1)
  • The change: They then build models that show aspects of the change they aspire to make – their models can be be concrete results or metaphorical representations of ideas that shall be implemented (see example #2).
  • Change landscape: In the next step the team combines their models into a bigger landscape – discovering clusters, tensions and affinities between topics. They use the final landscape to tell a shared story about themselves during this change initiative.
  • Key influences: Based on this story participants build models about key influences on the success of this change, integrate them into the bigger landscape and re-iterate their shared story (see example #3).

Playing Fearless Change Patterns

With the playing field on the table, the Fearless Change Patterns were introduced as a card game. Team members drew cards and then chose which pattern they wanted to playtest in the model. While playing with the ideas in the model and changing the model itself, the impact and the interplay of the patterns within the real organisation became clear and patterns could be refined to the actual context.

The following rules were applied:

  • The cards are sorted by topic in hidden decks: Early, Throughout, Later, Resistance.
  • Each player draws one card from each deck.
  • Players are asked to choose one card out of the four. The facilitator has different options to introduce choosing mechanisms by asking them to play cards they simply like, they find totally crazy in this context, that would never work, that remind them of a successfull strategy they already applied in this context, …
  • Participants are then asked to place the cards in the landscape and briefly play through the impacts they see. The facilitator flags the changes and makes sure that the changes can be undone for the next round.
  • When the changes have been made, the facilitator leads a short reflection on the model and uses the key influence models to encourage considering the patterns on the cards from different perspectives (see example #4).
  • For the next round, players can choose another card from their hand or return one card openly and draw a new one either from the deck of hidden cards  or from the returned cards.

Examples from the Fearless Change Playshop

The Fearless Change Patterns are „a way to capture expertise. (…) [they refer] to a recurring best practice documented as a solution to a problem in a given environment“ (Rising & Manns, 2004). In our playshop we built a metaphorical representation of the given environment with LEGO® and then explore the impact of the patterns at various points in the organisation. The following are examples from the playshop session. They illustrate the depth of thinking inspired by the method:

#1 My role

„I am one of the specialist trainers in this initiative. My Job will be to give trainings on the new role and the related tools. Often this is the first time they hear about it. I see it as my task to make the role as transparent as possible and to provide the bigger picture. I want participants to discover the treasures that come with the change, but also to overcome their fears.“ … During the reflection: „I discover that we as trainers are the only ones from the change team who work with real people in real life. All others also could do their work on paper only.“

#2 The change

Our company has a very solid foundation, but over the years we have build mountains of processes and structures. They have overgrown what is good, so that you cannot see it anymore. The change will focus on the foundation and reveal what is really good about our company.

#3 Key Influences

Managers may see that the change brings them status, but it could also mean to loose power. This fear is represented by the spider.

#4 Pattern „In your Space“

The communication expert played this pattern, to explore the impact of making new ideas visible with reminders throughout the organisation. The company often uses posters for this purpose. This led to a vivid exchange raising a number of insightful questions: Do I really want to see the change everywhere or do I also need places where I can let go the stress it might bring? What messages do I want to see – the ones with deadlines and key change messages? Or something practical for my own work? Who does need what message or type of visibility to feel allright with engaging in the change?

Feedback from Participants

„It helped me to understand what the different roles really mean, what they can and will provide and where the differences are. It‘s a real good starting point as we can literally see the whole picture now, and not only claim that we have it.“

„It adds an important dimension to other types of planning: Not only can I see WHEN things are happening, but WHERE they are happinng and WHERE they have an impact on the systems.“

„It helped me to better understand the patterns and internalise them more deeply: Drawing conclusions within the model helps to develop very differentiated ideas for initiatives.“

„I love the creative part in it. Everyone can easily contribute and there are no limitations to my creativity as the material is easy to use and adaptable. I also like to build and reflect on my own before sharing my thoughts“

„Rather introvert participants can be sure that their ideas are heard and remain on the table during the whole session.“

Helpful Links

  • If you want to learn more about the Fearless Change Patterns have a look at Linda Rising’s webseite You will also find templates for creating your own card game there.
  • You find detailed descriptions of the methodology in Linda Rising and Mary Lynn Manns‘ book:
    Rising, Linda and Manns, Mary Lynn (2004), Fearless Change: Patterns for Introducing New Ideas: Introducing Patterns into Organizations Addison-Wesley Longman,
  • The LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® materials and methodology are available here

Do not hesitate to contact us if you have questions or suggestions or if want to run a similar playshop.

Dieser Blogartikel ist zuerst auf erschienen (12. März 2015) – Version 1.1.

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