One topic more than any other seems to be surfacing in conversations with clients over the past few months – the increasing importance of Agile, and what the implications are for Change Management.
In this new series of blog posts over the next few weeks we are going to take a more granular look at the topic. And more specifically Agile Change Management – what it is exactly, what is driving the need for it, what benefits you can expect from it and what it means on the ground. For your Change Management processes, your infrastructure and, most importantly, for your people.The Origins of Agile and What is Means for Change Management
So where to start? It seems like a good place would be to create some form of a definition and layout our understanding of the genesis of not only Agile Change Management – but of Agile as a concept itself. Depending on your perspective you go can back and trace the origins of agile in the product and process improvement work of Bell Labs and Deming in the 1930’s, through Kaizen and Lean manufacturing techniques of the 60’s and 70’s right up to the present day.
But for the purposes of our analysis, the development of Agile methodology in software development in the late 1990’s and onward is key to understanding the unprecedented impact that Agile is having on organizations – and Change Management practitioners – today. The Agile approach to software development was a direct response to the complex, cumbersome and slow traditional approach to delivering software and IT projects. In stark contrast, it is flexible, iterative, allows rapid deployment of changes and - perhaps most importantly - it gets software in the hands of end users much more quickly than before.
Fast forward to today – and the unprecedented success of Agile in software teams has led to its principles spreading like wildfire through teams and across functions in organizations and making it one of the hottest topics in boardrooms across the globe. Consider some of the following stats:
- 94% of organizations surveyed by Deloitte see “agility and collaboration” as critical to their organizational success (although only 6% see themselves as “highly agile today”)
- McKinsey also found that while less than 10% of organizations have completed an agility transformation, a whopping 75% see organizational agility at either a top or top three priority for them
The result? A combination of this drive from the top and a whole raft of other business pressures is demanding that business units take an Agile approach to planning, delivering and evaluating their activities. And if the business is using this type of approach, the challenge for Change Management practitioners is to adopt a completely new and revolutionary approach to change implementation that mirrors and support this.
So where does this leave Change Management in all of this?
Change Management has always been an enabling capability allowing organisations to successful transform and extract investment value through people.
For us it has always been about closing the change Value Gap - the difference between successful installation and implementation in your change projects. Installation is about putting the hard stuff in – the structures, the processes and software. But real implementation is about getting people to commit to new ways of working and changing behavior. And closing the Value Gap.
Source: Changefirst Approach 2018
None of this has changed in an Agile context – in fact, if anything, with the huge disruption caused by new technology this is more important than ever. In fact, 2/3rd of companies in a recent survey by McKinsey rated implementation a higher priority than 3 years ago.
However, more traditional change management approaches to change management need to be reconsidered with the advent of Agile. Typically, these approaches have been centrist, with change expertise held at the center – most likely only within HR and OD functions - and resource heavy models that rely largely on a small group of change experts being supplemented by consultancy support as and when required. To date they have fitted with previous organisational models with varying degrees of success – in fact the McKinsey survey referenced above recorded a decline in employee commitment from 68% to 55% in the same time period.
However, we believe strongly that new operating models like Agile mean we need to consider new change management models to try to respond to different challenges and continue to be relevant and successful in our efforts.
Implications for Change Management – matching your approach to Agile
For us the change in approach that is required has its’ roots Agile itself.
In the diagram below are 4 key implications for Change Management that match – and deliver against - the 4 central drivers of Agile we see on a daily basis.
This is an excerpt from our infographic - How Agile is turning Change Management on its head. You can download a copy of the infographic here.
All of this is driving a revolution in the way change is planned and delivered
Our experience is that clients are looking for a more rapid and flexible way to plan, implement and track Agile change in their organization. One that allows them to:
- mirror the Agile approach being taken by the rest of the organization
- get started quickly, virtually and collaboratively on change projects
- scales easily across teams, functions and geos
- gives them the just-in-time data they need to analyse, review and pivot when needed
- leverages the power of digital and improves their chances of success on projects
And they want to be able to do all of this across their entire organization – and develop Enterprise level Change Management capability that supports Enterprise Level Agility.
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It is a completely new digital platform for organizations that must deliver their change projects quickly, comprehensively and cost-effectively.