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ACD Cycle

ACD Cycle

The Beating Heart of Adaptive Change Design - An End-to-End Continuous Cycle

The ACD cycle is an iterative cycle for change projects: SCAN - FOCUS - ACT - REFLECT. A full cycle is completed every 3-4 months. This is the optimal duration from one transition state to another. (See also Transition State Planning).


The ACD cycle is based on John Boyd's OODA loop which has gained popularity as a decision-making tool within business circles in recent years. We also took a lead from the world of consulting with their SCAN-FOCUS-ACT method for running workshops. We added REFLECT to create a transformation management cycle that repeats across the whole programme.

Like a Sprint Cycle - But for All Aspects of Change



A Thinking Tool that Explores Values, Information, Policies, Events & Reliance

VIPER, and its older brother VPEC-T analysis, (created by Nigel Green & Carl Bate), are thinking frameworks comprising a collection of mental filters or guides. The framework provides a simplified 'language' for preventing loss in translation from business needs to IT solutions. It is used when analysing the expectations of multiple parties having different views of a system. A system in which they all have an interest in common but have different priorities and different responsibilities.


The process of designing information systems typically involves a plethora of conflicting viewpoints. These can slow down implementation efforts if not effectively managed. To combat this, the VPEC-T analysis thinking framework was conceived in 2007, which was later re-badged VIPER in 2019. For simplicity, I will refer to both collectively as VIPER from now on.


The essence of VIPER analysis is to provide a collection of mental filters and guides. Together, they provide a simplified communication method that prevents loss in translation from business needs to IT and other solutions. As such, VIPER analysis is used when analyzing the expectations of multiple parties with different views of a single system. Each party may have different priorities and responsibilities and may want to achieve different objectives. VIPER analysis is commonly used for complex enterprise IT systems or large-scale development efforts. It's also used for non-IT change such as organisational and cultural change.


Unpicks Complex & Conflicting Concerns which Surfaces Insights & Innovations

The Core Story

The Core Story

Change Leaders Need to Be Great Storytellers

Transform by creating the emotional conditions people need to embrace transformational change.


In a turbulent business environment transformation means generating value — unlocking opportunities, driving growth, delivering efficiencies. It’s not enough to win today, you must be the business that keeps winning.


Transformation requires agility and it must be complete, making it harder for larger organisations. To be effective, a common denominator is needed to ensure change is feasible, desirable, and effective across all departments and territories. That common denominator is your story.


The Core Story process will help leaders identify and co-create stories that unify personnel and motivate change, by engaging hearts and minds across the organisation. The meaningful story which helps replace resistance, fear and inertia, with real purpose. Turn leaders and influencer networks into storytellers who build belief in shared goals and provide role models.



  • An accelerated ability to execute strategies, based on operational and cultural priorities, quickly translating words into action.

  • An agile culture of continuous learning and readiness for change, in which teams learn intuitively and adapt easily

  • Inspired and empowered employees: emotionally engaged in the transformation journey, clear on their role, fit to deliver and committed to playing their part

  • Authentic leaders who inspire belief, trust and understanding

  • Aligned teams, focused on a shared destination.


Padraig Hyland - The Core Story.

Change is All About Effective Communication - Storytelling = Engage & Enrol!



Infographics Are More Useful Than Wiring Diagrams

The use of Infographics for communicating complex topics, specifically the use of metro map style (based on metro rail maps used globally). The benefits of a metro map representation are:


  • Broad inclusivity - any city dweller over the age of nine has already learnt to read a metro map.
  • Simplify the complex - the scope of a business transformation can be daunting. Be able to represent that scope on one page (albeit poster size) is a great aid to discussion and decision-making.
  • The map is readily adopted by others who will overlay the perspectives they wish to emphasise (e.g. risk hot spots, priority items, relative costs, training needs etc.).


The use of creative graphics will get the audience attention and engage visually.

Metro Maps are a Great Way to Convey Complex Scope of Change

 Concept Mapping

Concept Mapping

Mind Maps are useful. But Concept Maps Open-up Networked Thinking

Network and Relationship models. The ability to see the connection between things, like a Mind Map yet more flexible. A Concept Map is much easier to practice than describe - here there's more about Concept Mapping.


This is one of the most frequently used tools in Adaptive Change Design. Of course, you can do it on paper but a software tool makes it easier. My preference is C-map Tools.

A Very Useful and Adaptable Tool at Any Stage of the Change Journey



Simple Spreadsheets Underpin Change Governance

Checklists are a series of steps to go through that test compliance with change principles and run through identified risks. In aviation, checklists are an essential part of Crew Resource Management, (aka Cockpit Resource Management). They have been proven to improve teamwork and reduce errors both by airline pilots and surgeons.


Checklists and catalogues of components of change might appear to be a low-value exercise. However, if a few simple rules are followed, along with basic project management discipline, such lists will become especially useful sources for guidance, decision-making and inclusivity, across the whole change journey.


Examples of subjects for checklists:

  • Cyber Security & Data Privacy Compliance
  • Design/Build Principles Compliance
  • Data Standards Compliance
  • Integration Principles Compliance


Examples of subjects for catalogues:

  • Principles
  • Risks
  • Fiscal Guidelines
  • Hypotheses
  • Message Types.


Catalogues & Checklists are usually captured in spreadsheet format. A Business Analyst or Architect is assigned stewardship, but the whole team own them.


"Experts need checklists–literally–written guides that walk them through the key steps in any complex procedure. In the last section of the book, Gawande shows how his research team has taken this idea, developed a safe surgery checklist, and applied it around the world, with staggering success". - Malcom Gladwell on The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande.

Pilots & Surgeons Use Checklists To Avoid Mistakes and Improve Teamwork

How Now Brown Cow

How Now Brown Cow

Did I Hear You Say Brown Cow?

A frequent problem voiced by requirements analysts is: “people don’t tell me their requirements; they tell me a solution to some unstated problem”. This focus on solutions is further complicated when it is mixed with current business constraints, technical constraints, and personal perceptions of the world.


The Brown Cow Model


Typically, useful systems viewpoints are Now (often referred to as “as is”) and Future (also called “to be”). The Brown Cow takes a more granular approach by looking at the How (solution) and What (essence) of both Now and Future.


The Brown Cow Model was developed by Suzanne Robertson and James Robertson.

A Remarkably Simple Yet Powerful Tool Prevents The "Jump to Answer"

Rumsfeldian Risk Analysis

Rumsfeldian Risk Analysis

Risk Are Known, Known Unknown, Unknowable - VUCA Shifts Risks To The Right

"Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don't know we don't know." Donald Rumsfeld.


This method looks at risks from the perspective of certainty: "Known", "Unknown" and "Unknowable" etc. This helps manage risk within the continuous planning and execution processes. Relative risk, experimentation and deferral strategies are developed in conjunction with Transition State planning over iterations of the ACD Cycle to provide continuous risk assessment.

Reassess Risks Regularly - Something Unkown Yesterday May be Known tomorrow.

Business Services Specs

Business Services Specs

Plain Language Fact Sheets For All To Create & Use

First developed by DHL and used with numerous other brands since, a Business Service Spec (BSS) is a concise set of ‘Fact Sheets’ (e.g. four to five A4 pages) that describe what the service does and key Non-Functional Requirements of the service, such as performance metrics.


In line with the 'Just Enough' principle, experience has shown that the Business Service Spec fulfils the Minimal Viable Documentation requirements of a service. It is used to capture the attributes of the service, regardless of its implementation (technical or non-technical) and regardless of the size (e.g. BPO service, an ERP SaaS or a Microservice).


Information Exchange Specs document any type of information (e.g. data, conversations, messages etc.) produced or consumed by the service.

An Implementation Agnostic Service Description - Minimum Viable Documentation

Data Use Case

Data Use Case

Data-Driven Strategies Need 'Data Use Cases' To Delver Outcomes Early

With the advent of Big Data, IoT, AI/ML, organisations are seeing the need formalising the business value of data (structured and unstructured). As Bernard Marr (an expert in this field) puts it "A good data strategy will help you clarify your company’s strategic objectives and determine how you can use data to achieve those goals. The data uses that you identify in this process are known as your use cases. In other words, these use cases are your key data projects or priorities for the year ahead.


An online form & template based on Bernard Marr's definition of a Data Use Case is available at this site under Projects/Forms & Templates.

Minimum Viable Documentation That Clarifies Use Case Objectives

Transition State Planning

Transition State Planning

The Wiggly Path To Transformation - Adapting To Prevailing VUCA Storms

Transition State Planning (TSP). This borrows ideas from Complexity Theory: Specifically, the characteristics of Complex Adaptive Systems. Starting with the premise that no one can predict the long-range future and that outcomes will emerge at various points along the way.


Much like ’Scenario Planning’, it starts with a few hypothetical ideas. These are then refined in workshops with subject experts until a reasonable consensus is reached. ‘Transition States’; Each has a few goals (expected outcomes) that we estimate to complete and some statements of 'pass-criteria' for that Transition Sate to be declared complete. At this stage, the Transition States are not pinned to a hard date. They describe the sequence of outcomes, and roughly when we think they'll happen. Transition States are re-planning points; a time to reassess and re-estimate the next phase of work. The Transition State is an opportunity to amplify value-adding and extinguish value-detracting aspect.

Transition States Are Milestones For Delivery And Re-planning

Systems' Types

Systems' Types

Know The Types Of System In Play - Both Tech & Non-Tech Systems

In today's complex business environment, it's important to understand the different systems' typology in play: obvious, complicated, complex, and chaotic (as Dave Snowden puts it in the Cynefin decision-making framework. When it comes to design, understanding the expected design requirements it is equally important to ask are we designing a Robust (Fail-Safe), an Agile (Constant Change, Safe-To-Fail), or a Resilient (Bounce-Back) solution? Or indeed do we need to apply all three? This analysis applies to both automated and people-centric systems.


Cynefin Systems Typology helps us see systems from different perspectives from ordered to disordered. There is no universal answer, but the thinking can be invaluable to understanding architecture and New Ways of Working.

The Types Of System In Scope Can Have A Dramatic Impact On The Change Ahead


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