Bottom-Up Organization Change Strategy

I am definitely not the first to encounter obstacles in introducing changes in the organization from the bottom up, and not the last. I want to share some observations, conclusions and errors that I made along the way. Perhaps someone was in a similar situation, faced similar obstacles and managed to overcome them. It would be interesting to hear their experience.

Simplified history is as follows. There is a need for Data Science specialists. There is some vision of top management about how it should be and it ignores people who are interested in this area and are already employees of the company. Some of them learn DS on their own. To speed up training in this direction and make it more relevant for the needs of the company, I decided to organize a group and enlist the support of architects and heads of departments. Here the fun begins in this story. Under the cut strategy and my findings.

Strategy: from erroneous to working

Everything looks much simpler if the idea of ​​creating a certain group arises in the heads of top managers. A group will always be created and there will be people in it. But if this idea arises at the level of developers, the prospect of its implementation becomes complicated at times. But perhaps this is just my experience, from a food company and outsourcing differently. Western company. Against this background, the following understanding of the strategy arose, which can be described in the following steps as follows:

  1. Find out the relevance of the initiative
  2. Enlist the support of architects
  3. Group formation (unofficial launch)
  4. Discuss activity with department heads
  5. To convey information to project managers
  6. Official launch

After that, the initiative will be understood and supported by everyone. Perfectly. Of course, this plan is not unidirectional: steps can be taken several times, if necessary. Their meaning is to make the result and activity within the framework of this initiative the most relevant and safe for the company. The mistake here is that too many people are involved. In itself, this is necessary, but the sequence, in my opinion, should have been different for this to work. Now everything is stuck at the discussion stage and the vision about the strategy has changed a bit. I will return to it a little lower, but for now I want to explain some steps.

1. Find out the relevance of the initiative

Here it is necessary to find out not only the number of people, but also their level of interest in the initiative. Roughly speaking, we need to understand how many people support the initiative, and how many are willing to spend their time on it. Subsequently, the initiative will live off of the second type of people. But even they should be interested in some kind of exhaust from this activity. Therefore, even before this step, it is necessary to understand the relevance of the initiative for the company. It's simple: talk to the CEO for a cup of coffee, if possible.

2. Enlist the support of architects

Architects are needed to adjust activity in a group regarding technology plans. Perhaps there is no vision at all, because there are not even projects in this area yet. However, the activity of the group may contribute to their appearance soon. It is best for architects to know about the group and understand what it is doing in order to use the result in a timely manner. Or, conversely, give an idea for an activity. In the second case, they can support the group when requesting investment in a training project.

3. Formation of the group

At this step, the final provisions and plan of the group's activities should be discussed with interested people. How to work, what, where to communicate, whom to attract, and other issues need to be discussed, to understand who is the backbone of the group at the initial stage. This step is necessary in order to come to the heads of departments. And, most importantly, all this is brought to the attention of architects so that there are no misunderstandings.

4. Discuss activity with department heads

In another way they are also called as "Head of ....". In some companies there is only one, in some more. In my two, in the directions. So, to provide them with information, it is necessary to operate on facts, not considerations. At this step, you tell them that there are so many people, the architects agree with the vision of the group and are, kind of, mentors. The group itself builds a plan and operates outside working hours. This is the most important point: the core business of the company should not be affected. The people involved in the initiative spend their personal time on it until the company approves activities at a higher level.

5. Provide information to project managers

With the support of “Head of ...”, you can already tell project managers that there is such activity and how it does not affect the daily responsibilities of the people participating in it. This is necessary to remove the level of tension that always arises when something happens without the knowledge of managers. If this is not done, then friction and questions will arise very quickly. During this discussion, points may arise that need to be taken into account in the activities of the group.

Working strategy

The main mistake of the strategy above, in my opinion, is a large number of conversations and people involved. Involuntarily, this initiative is perceived as something global, as a separate project. Although, in fact, it is only a club of interests. The idea is to bring together people who already study the same thing in their free time and find synergy with a company that is only considering the possibility of moving in this direction without a clear idea. Now I think that a more working strategy would be the following:

  1. Find out the relevance of the activity
  2. Formation of an informal group
  3. Notify your own managers

As the knowledge and experience of people in the group grows and as the company forms a vision for Data Science, the relevance of other steps from the plan above will come.

Conclusions for the future

  • KISS KISS What seems simple to you can be difficult for another. The difference in presentation is the greater, the greater the difference in the roles of two people. Even after seemingly nowhere to simplify further, there are different questions and extra points that can be thrown out and clarified.
  • You need to start very quickly and in the very simplest form. I emphasize the "simplest" form. This means you have to sacrifice and throw out almost everything that seemed necessary in a seemingly minimal form. If the topic is relevant, people will be found and activities will be conducted.
  • The number of discussions is directly proportional to the apparent size of the activity. Even if the activity is small, due to the number of people involved, it can swell up to a huge project, which will be an obstacle to its implementation.

P.S. Мне кажется, это чем-то напоминает запуск стартапа, но в рамках одной компании. The experience of people who implemented something similar in similar conditions is very interesting. If you need to supplement or clarify something in the article, write, I will try to do it.