Solna Syndrome

Recorded at Lean Agile Manchester on 21st June 2017
Mic Streeter – Solna Syndrome. Explores the psychology of organisational change


I’m Mic. I work for a company called Calibrate, who do funky stuff with fuel pricing software. So that’s the end of the sales pitch. My role there is broad, ranging across the development teams to improve the way they develop products, and improve the way software pours out of the organisation. So I’ve got a pretty broad interest across the software and development thing and I’m really interested in what I call the three S’s, if you like, of software, systems, and psychology. But not spelling, obviously.

So I think a lot about psychology and teams, and this is where I spend a lot of my time focusing on that. So you’re gonna get the demo version. You’re the early adopters, or you’re the … This is the whip on a tool that I’m working on around organisational psychology and specifically around the psychology of change. It’s also something of an experience report of the last six months in this organisation. I’ve got one of my colleagues up there, so I’ll remove the names. No props, no slides, just me in my natural environment, which is beer and Sharpies. So I’ll just launch into this, and you let me know whether I’m on the right track.

So you’re probably all aware of a thing called the Stockholm syndrome. Right? Early 70’s … It’s been called capture bonding. Some way in which people who are hostage or captives develop a strong empathy with their captors and start to empathise and sympathise with the way that these people are treated. It’s been debunked in some quarters whether it’s a real thing or not, but I found this to be a really strong factor in the psychology of change in teams.

So people who hated the old way kinda hate the new way more, ’cause they like their comfortable horribleness that they really didn’t like. And all of you guys, you’re here right? So this is something that we stumbled over earlier, as our job practitioners, or someway interested in job, you might think that this level of freedom is what everybody would want. But I’ve just experienced six months of… Enforced autonomy. It’s kind of hard to imagine, but… Spending my time ordering people not to take any more orders, and it’s really difficult.

Though these are bad people or bad guys… They think it’s a great idea, but actually… We need to acknowledge as agents of change when we’re dealing with people who… Their level of comfort might be different from yours. You might all imagine that being given autonomy, having the boss turn up and say, ‘Well what do you think we should do next?’ Is a great thing. But that’s not right for everybody.

Okay, we’re now going into loads of detail. I think it’s really important that what we try and focus on is removing some of the crutches, some of the bad crutches, some of the things where people have expected to be treated in a certain way and it’s a terrible way to treat people, but it’s what they expect. It’s using your influencing skills and being able to show people there is a better way without just expecting them to think, ‘Hey, this is all great.’ Because you think it’s great, right? ‘Cause that might not be the case.

So be conscious of doing those good practises, retrospecting on why you’re changing, what the benefit is. Really try and baseline when you get in to start with, because it’s really hard to say, ‘This is gonna banned next week,’ if nobody realises what it was like at the time. And try and work through this period of enforced autonomy so that you get to a stage where teams really are feeling empowered and engaged and able to make those changes. But don’t be surprised if they don’t do it straight away.

So I think that’s probably it in a nutshell. Be aware that even though you think it’s super awesome, it might be really, really scary to somebody else. The title there is Solna Syndrome, and Solna’s just a place that’s near Stockholm but not quite Stockholm. I didn’t have another name. So that’s what I chose. So thank you very much. Thanks guys.

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