Applying The Patterns

Now for the hard part: getting the organization to actually use any of the patterns. That means changing the culture of the organization, and cultural change is tricky, difficult, sometimes painful, and sometimes even dangerous. We cover this topic in more detail in OrganizationalPrinciples, and it is important to read that chapter before actually trying out these patterns in your organization. The section PiecemealGrowth gives particularly important advice that can be boiled down to: apply one pattern at a time, and if it doesn't feel right, back out. Until you read OrganizationalPrinciples, here are some tips to get started.


You should apply the patterns in a sequence. Though you can understand the patterns individually in almost any sequence, they gain much of their power by building on each other in the right order. Each particular organization is built from a sequence of patterns whose order is suggested by the succession of unbalanced forces each pattern leaves for the ensuing one. At the beginning of each pattern language chapter we offer some example sequences.
For more on sequences, see the section CreatingSequences.

Which patterns?

There is no prize for using the most patterns. With the sequences as a guide, choose the patterns that solve problems that you actually have. Do you feel the pattern's forces in your organization? Then the pattern is worth considering. Otherwise, don't oblige yourself to use the pattern. There is nothing intrinsically good about any pattern in isolation; each one is good only to the extent that it resolves the forces that actually exist in your organization. Pay specific attention to the patterns you marked with yellow stickies when you were reading them. Don't be afraid to follow your nose. Remember: patterns aren't about us telling you what to do, they're about helping you discover what you knew how to do all along.

Human Concerns

Organizations comprise people, so it should be no surprise that you will need to deal with "people issues" as you unfold a pattern language in an organization. Let common sense and sensitivity be your guide; here are a few tips to guide you.
First, remember that nearly every organization has some awareness of its own failings. People may not be able to put their finger on a particular problem, but they know that they have troubles. But we tend to be our own worst critics: we usually think that things are worse than they are. So build on this self-awareness and self-criticism. You may wish to begin with patterns that the organization already does well, and then introduce the patterns they can easily adopt.

Language and conversation are keys to successful change. In other words, people need to learn what the patterns are, and then begin to use the names of the patterns in their conversations. So teach people about the patterns you have selected. Naturally, we think it would be grand if everyone in the organization had their own copy of this book to refer to!

Finally, recognize that no matter who your are, you can't change the organization. The people must change themselves. So enlist allies. Make sure you read the following patterns: GateKeeper, PatronRole, PublicCharacter, LegendRole, and WiseFool. These patterns describe some of the key movers and shakers in an organization. Identify them in your organization, and go to them first. Once they get excited about these patterns, it is likely the rest of the organization will come along. By the way, which of those patterns fits you?