Mark Pearl

“I’m a person who enjoys routine, so when someone suddenly changes my routine, it can be tough for my brain to handle. On the flip side, when I come up with changes, I love them and can’t see why others wouldn’t agree. I’ve found that many people are like this.

As someone responsible for driving processes at work, I’m conscious of this oxymoron. That’s why I default to using experiments to introduce changes wherever possible.

Here’s how I do it: When I want to change something, I create an experiment plan that answers these questions:

  • Experiment name
  • Description (what’s happening now and what will change, important to be detailed in the exact changes so it is actionable and clear)
  • Why we’re trying it (problems with the current situation)
  • How long we’ll try the experiment (start and end dates)
  • What we hope to see
  • What to watch out for
  • How we’ll know if it’s successful (I push hard to get metrics that are measurable, being clear on who will measure it - this is very important!)

Once I’ve written it out, I move the plan where everyone can see it - I have a section in Confluence called “Draft Experiments”. This gives me an opportunity to ask my team for their thoughts and feedback.

I encourage people to share concerns about the experiment and give feedback where the plan is not clear. This often drives some refinement on my side of the written experiment to clear up ambiguity. After feedback and adjustments, I make a call - is there enough of a positive signal to indicate we should try this, or was this experiment just a bad idea?

If it’s still feeling good, we start it. When we start, sometimes things don’t go well early on. That’s a good thing. It’s quick feedback - some things make sense until you try and execute them, at which point you discover major flaws - this is a win! Fail fast; I hear my lean start-up friends chime in.

If the experiment isn’t going well, we reassess. Do we stop it or keep going? If we stop, I summarise what we observed and move the experiment to an archive section.

If the experiment runs till the end, it’s time to assess it. We examine the experiment’s success measures and decide whether to adopt it as a standard process, try another experiment, or return to the old way. Regardless of the action, it’s documented.

This approach helps because:

  • It keeps a record of what we’re doing and why
  • It reminds me and others that it’s okay to try and adjust if needed
  • It makes me think about how we’ll know if the change is helpful and how we will objectively measure it
  • It helps me consider the impact on the whole system
  • It forces me to go through the rigour of measuring

Using experiments makes it easier for my brain and my team to handle changes without getting stressed. Try it.”

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