Leveraging Tension for Real Change

Change and agility ultimately are: movement, evolution, transformation. Moving from A to B with some detours along the way, there is inherent tension in change and it’s important to work with it, not against it. 

The smaller you can make the distance from any given A to any given B, the more iterations (small steps / feedback loops) in the change, the more successful you will be. This is because you can leverage tension to move and be adaptive, rather than fold underneath it. 

Tension is necessary for change as we are literally expanding the “zone we operate in”. 

We have a habit of exerting tension on people in organizations “rolling change out onto people” – like we would treat a machine. Often this results in the illusion of “big bang changes” in organizations which look a lot like a Fad Diet. 

Change is all about people, and more successful when we take smaller, faster steps under our own power and control, as opposed to being pushed or pulled by the organization. This isn’t to say changes in organizations are always “just what we want to do”, but any change can be made if a person can picture themselves in this new state and work towards it incrementally and iteratively. 

If we look at this first from the people and see the organization as an organism, then we know that people can leverage tension to move themselves, to actually adapt and grow. 

It’s just like you need to leverage tension at the gym to lift more. It’s all human performance – even in business. 


We’re preparing to publish an academic article in coming months on this topic, which we spoke on at the Global Scrum Gathering in Denver last week: “Acrobatics of Business Agility: Leveraging Tension for Dynamic Movement”.

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