Where Agile is the development and business delivery mechanism inside an organization Change Management has to be adjusting and aligning itself – taking an Agile approach to Change Management. It also needs to be more flexible, more iterative and demonstrate its ability to keep up with what is going on in the Agile environment.
In this video, Audra Proctor – CEO of Changefirst – outlines how working in this type of environment means you need more change management, not less. And how Change Management:
- needs to be more precise, more efficient and more iterative
- requires plans that deliver at pace and become MVPs in their own right
- has to engage earlier in the process including showing early wins and driving constant communication
- should integrate with project management much earlier in the process to ensure success
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In an environment where Agile is used as the development and delivery mechanism, Change Management just needs to be adjusting to align with what's going on in an Agile environment. It needs to be more flexible, it needs to be more iterative. And I think there's some myths and cynicism being generated around this, and around the ability of Change Management to keep up with what's going on in the Agile environment.
I have two main observations. The first one is about the scepticism. I think the scepticism is largely within the supporting functions. The question then is, will supporting functions, for example like HR, like finance, be able to change their operating models to align better with Agile? The second observation I think is about, what I'm seeing is organizations are becoming less strategic around the people approach during an Agile project. And there's some myths that are driving this. There's a myth about what does people over process mean, and how are people interpreting that? There's another myth around what does dynamics over documentation mean, and how people are interpreting that? What does collaboration over cascading mean, and how are people interpreting that?
They're these myths, I think, that are driving a more tactical approach to how we are handling people within an Agile project. I'm really keen to debunk these myths. And my first response to practitioners is that reinventing the wheel, and a lack of structure and discipline are the enemies of Agile. Change Management needs to happen in less time with greater pace. And what that actually means is that we need to be more focused. We need to be more precise, we need to be more efficient if we're going to align with Agile.
Change Management plans I think need to be almost like MVP's in their own right. We need to be able to pick them up, we need to run with them, we need to be flexible. We need to be able to gather feedback quickly, and then roll that into the plan to improve it for the next iteration. My next response to practitioners is that Change Management needs to be earlier in an Agile environment. We need to engage people earlier. So, we need to be more upfront with our Change Management activities. We need senior sponsorship to be engaged. We need early wins, we need constant communication to maintain momentum. We need people analytics, we need a dashboard. We need to make sure that local managers are equipped and ready to help their teams.
I also say to practitioners that Change Management and project management need to integrate earlier. We need more communication, more collaboration, so I can't see how we need less Change Management. What I do see is that Change Management needs to change. I see Change Management mapping really well with Agile. Let's consider for a moment the four primary activities of an Agile Sprint. You have your planning, you have your daily cycles, you have your review, and then you have your retrospective. So, I can see really clearly within the project establishment or high level planning for the Sprint that you need your elevator speech, you need your stakeholder map, and a plan to gain support from those stakeholders. You need your people impact data. You need mitigating actions to address any risks that come out from that data. And then you need to be refining that data to reflect any kind of user stories that you have.
When we're working with clients, particularly during the Sprint execution phase, we see parallel Change Management plans being executed. You have your stakeholder management plan that you're executing. You have your communications plan that you're executing to get the message out there to start to get people energized around a Sprint. You have your training that you're executing, particularly with those local leaders who you need to sponsor the change. And then you have your resistance management, as people get to know more about this Sprint, they have certain feelings which need to be managed. We need those local managers engaged to be able to do that.
During the Sprint review, what we're seeing in our clients who are working with Agile is that the Change Management activities are all about feedback for the next iteration. Are people ready? What about sponsor behaviour? Do we have any kind of assessments that tell us how they are doing to support the change? What do we know about the level of resistance or the level of commitment that we're seeing? And also, in the Sprint retrospective, this is where clients are starting to say to us, "We need to be thinking about how we're going to actually adjust our Change Management activities to be ready for the next Sprint."
Well, in the Change Management space over the last 25 years, we've been building organizational change capabilities, which we transfer inside organizations. What we've been really keen to make sure is that these capabilities we're building actually integrate and align with other methods that are also being used in the organization, Agile being one of them. A few years ago, we took a decision to roll up this capability, the skills, the tools, the learning onto a digital platform. And what it helps us to do is to provide organizations with a means to engage people without geographical limitations because everyone is on the platform.
It gives organizations a way to reach more people cost effectively because there's video learning on that platform. It gives organizations a way to embed just in time people analytics to support Agile delivery at the pace that is required. And we have this digital platform, but of course for organizations that are not so digitally mature, they can be supported by workshops and coaching from our experts.