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Fearless Change


Book reviews > Fearless Change


Mary Lynn Manns and Linda Rising (2004). Fearless Change: Patterns for Introducing New Ideas, Addison Wesley


Imagine you spend a while going around the world talking to lots of people about business change and their experiences. You would probably find that after a while, it would all get a bit the same, with the same stories appearing of what works and what does not work. This is what the authors have done and the 48 patterns found form the major part of this book.

'Pattern languages' were introduced by architect Christopher Alexander in his 'Timeless Way of Building' and have been taken up with enthusiasm by software and other communities. The basic principle is to compare what works and what does not work (Alexander talk about this in terms of resolving conflicting forces) across many examples to derive emergent deep patterns.

So how many patterns would you expect to find? Ten? A thousand? The trick with patterns is not so much in how many you can find but how few. What may seem to be separate patterns can easily be a part of the same underlying pattern. In this study, the authors found forty-eight, which is a good number, not too many and not too few.

Each pattern is explained in a few pages and summarized in an appendix. The explanation, though brief, is comprehensive and includes the opening story, summary, context, problem, forces, essence of the solution,  more on the solution, resulting context, and known uses. Here are three examples:

  • Plant the seeds: To spark interest, carry material (seeds) and display (plant) them when the opportunity arises.
  • Shoulder to cry on: To avoid becoming discouraged when the going get tough, find opportunities to talk with others who are also struggling to introduce a new idea.
  • Just enough: To ease learners into the more difficult concepts of a new idea, give a brief introduction and then make more information available when they are ready.

There is something curious in patterns in the way they tend to be both obvious and unexpected. Alexander's patterns seem an eclectic mix and yet turn out to be deeply wise. Likewise, the patterns in this book sometimes seem odd, but on reading they always make sense. This is helped by their high credibility, being based in practical research, rather than being based on the authors' opinions or limited experience.

Overall, this an excellent and useful book and is highly recommended as a standard text to any change agents who work to implement change of any kind within organizations.



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Mary Lynn Manns and Linda Rising. Fearless Change: Patterns for Introducing New Ideas, Addison Wesley, 

A splendid book for the change agent, including 48 key patterns you can use to help make change work in your organization.



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