Esther Derby’s Six Rules for Change

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Rules of Thumb, Sales, skmurphy

Esther Derby (@estherderby) presented “Six Rules for Change” at LeanWX NYC 2015 “The Design of Purposeful Work”

  1. Congruence.
  2. Honor what is valuable about the past and what is working now.
  3. Assess the current situation and system.
  4. Ascertain who is trusted and who people turn to for advice, and weave them into your network.
  5. Guide the change. Consider where global principles apply, and what can evolve locally.
  6. Design experiments in collaboration with people who are involved in the change.

These same rules are essential to making a complex sale. What follows are my notes on her talk.

Esther Derby Six Rules for Change

Video by Will Evans

Here are my notes from the video

Paradigms for change

  • Drive change
  • Install a change – metaphor mask complexity
  • Evangelize change – coming with the light to save you from the darkness
    • leaves out losses and negative aspects; fundamentally dishonest

How to nurture complex change in complex environments: you must attend to the systems and the people that are part of it.  Derby offers six rules that you must attend to simultaneously, choosing where you place emphasis based on the needs of the situation.


Congruence allows you to maintain a dynamic system in balance. This involves understanding and keeping your needs, the needs of others, the needs of the situation in balance. This enables empathy. When these are out of balance then you see blame if you focus too much on your needs, placation if you focus too much on others needs, and super-reasonable if you leave people.

If you have congruence you can see five legitimate reasons people may not want to accept this intervention.

Honor What is Valuable About the Past
And What is Working Now.

Know what you want to keep.
People resist coercion and denigration.
Reframe using these phrases (using appreciative inquiry would be better):

  • This was the best solution we had at the time.
  • This has served us well when …
  • Up until now this has been sufficient.

People don’t resist change, they resist coercion. If you see “resistance” check if you are engaged in coercive behavior.

Observe the Current Situation and System,
Assess What is Possible From Where Things Stand.

Understand the forces in equilibrium in the current situation. Use diagrams.

  • How is the system working now?
  • What holds the current pattern in place?
  • What might shift the pattern?
  • What is understood, and what learning is needed?
  • Who benefits from status quo?
  • Who will benefit from intervention?
  • Who will work with you?
  • What is possible from where you stand now?
  • People change to save something they value: identify what they value.

Be careful of events and blame, instead look for patterns and categories.

Ascertain Who is Trusted and Who People Look to For Advice; Weave Them into Your Network.

Don’t rely only on the formal hierarchy.
Networks diffuse ideas, create connections, foster innovation, create a larger picture.
Analyze networks, activate and enhance.

This reminds me of Jim Holden‘s “Find the fox” strategy from “Power Base Selling.” The fox is his word for individuals who are trusted across the organization to be working in the best interests of the survival and growth of the organization.

Guide the Change:
Balance Global Principles With Local Needs

Not drive, sell, or install
Company > department > team > individual
Normally want coherence not standardization
Standards normally only required where tight linkages exist
Iterate: work by successive approximation and adjust as you go.

Design Experiments in Collaboration With People
Who are Involved in the Change.

Use smaller changes–think of  them as experiments–instead of a “big bang” change.
Measure evaluate, and adjust.
Offer only a few new ideas at once.
Phased implementation structured as a sequence of experiments help people learn

Presentation Slides Now Available

Six Rules for Change from Esther Derby

Six Monthly Teleconferences On Rules For Change

Esther Derby is offering a series of six monthly Q&A teleconference sessions devoted to these six rules for change. They are no charge and the first is August 12-2015  and will explore congruence and change.

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