How to Do Agile Change Management

How to Do Agile Change Management
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Agile Change Management — What Is It?
Agile change management is an approach to managing the people side of change that works in concert with the agile project management methodology.  Agile project management is a team-centered, iterative, and cross-functional approach to project management that breaks projects into manageable tasks that are tackled in short iterations or sprints. Done right, the agile approach to project management enables teams to adapt to change quickly and deliver work faster.

That is good news from a change management consulting perspective.  Agile change management thrives on a team-centered, iterative, and cross-functional approach to organizational change.  Because the planning, design, development, and testing phases are ongoing, it sets the stage for continuing change management that is flexible and stakeholder-centric at its core.

Rather than running a single 26.22-mile marathon in one race to reach a big goal, agile change management works in more achievable and evolving sprints.  Done right, agile change management uses speed, autonomy, and collaboration to break down silos and create higher levels of performance through greater levels of stakeholder engagement.

Basic Elements Change
Based on change management simulation data, all successful organizational change plans need to incorporate the following change management basics:

  • A clear, believable, and implementable business case for change
  • Effective communication to all stakeholders of the imperative and urgency for change
  • The tools and skills for implementing the change
  • Processes, practices, and procedures that support the change
  • Buy-in and alignment of management and employees so everyone affected by change is moving in the same direction and toward the same goal

How Agile Change Management Is Different
The agile approach to change differs from the kind of change where everything is planned and in place before the initiative is launched. As a result, agile change approaches need to differ in the way they roll out. After you charter your change leadership team, ensure that you:

  1. Give More Autonomy to Deliver on the Business Case for Change
    As with any initiative where you must change the hearts and minds of people, everyone affected by change must be on board with the urgency for change and the business case for change.

    At the outset, the same is true for an agile approach to change.  The main difference is that once leadership has defined (or hopefully co-created) the desired outcomes, teams must be given autonomy to achieve the results in a way that makes sense.

    Change leaders must have the confidence and competence to step back so that their teams can step up.  Leaders can then focus on guarding against backsliding into old ways of thinking and working to show that change will be handled differently from past “big bang” and “top down” types of deployment.

    This allows the agile approach to change to be more iterative, organic, and people-driven — all positive change qualities.

  2. Enable More Frequent, Flexible, and Transparent Two-Way Communication
    If stakeholders have incomplete visibility into or inaccurate information about change efforts, they are unable to make timely decisions, unlikely to give extra discretionary effort, less effective at creating accountability, and less likely to enroll others in the need for change.

    Those charged with implementing and living with the change need to understand that progress will be made in transparent small steps, one at a time. There will be multiple milestones and rollout windows.

    While most successful change efforts create high levels of transparency at work, agile change management gets change teams to create transparency during every sprint and UAT (User Acceptance Testing) in a way that keeps up with the new required, and ever-changing, ways of working.  Because the agile process itself has the built-in flexibility to frequently recalibrate plans, change leaders are forced to do the same — in 90-day cycles.Whenever possible, build your change management communication and feedback loops (e.g., project post mortems) directly into the agile process so that you share and gather feedback about change-related strategies, readiness, structures, cultural norms, processes, practices, systems, and people.

  3. Provide More Targeted Agile Tools and Skills to Help Individuals Succeed
    Regardless of your approach to change, it is important to remember that organizations do not change, people do. To get lasting and meaningful change results, people must fundamentally think and behave differently.

    Those affected by change need to be educated on agile and change management.

    Start by identifying the critical few behaviors, skills, and knowledge that matter most for your change initiative.  Then reinforce them consistently and invest in real-time coaching and relevant skill building during each 90-day sprint.

The Bottom Line
Successful agile change initiatives mobilize leaders and change champions while actively involving those most affected by change in adopting ways of thinking, behaving, and working.  Agile change allows new ways to occur along with, not despite of, unexpected shifts in product development, the marketplace, consumer needs and economic downturns. Are you and your workforce ready for agile change?

To learn more about setting your organizational change up for success, download the 5 Science-Backed Lenses of Change that Leaders Must Get Right

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