Can Change Management Survive in an Agile World?

Apr 7, 2019 | Posted by Michael Campbell

Digital technologies are disrupting industries worldwide. With this, we have seen a significant rise in popularity and adoption rates of the Agile methodology. With confusion arising surrounding how Agile and change management can work together, we're discussing how both can work harmoniously in an ever-growing agile world. 

There are a number of concerns surrounding the implementation of change management within an Agile project management cycle. These concerns are particularly evident when considering whether change management will slow down the process, ultimately affecting the speed and innovation derived from Agile. The need for change management is often increased in Agile due to its iterative nature and its impact on culture and readiness. 

Also an organisation moving to an Agile approach for the first time often underestimates the scale of the change that is required in ways of working to adopt and accept this new approach.

Change management can be impacted in several ways when adjusting its practice in an Agile project. If you are a change management practitioner or project manager new to using Agile, then our one-day Intersection of Agile and Change Management Workshop will help you keep up with the new pace and deliver on its promise. We offer an in-depth exploration of the latest research, build specific tactics and plans for effectively adapting, while adjusting change management in an Agile environment.

Agile Approach

With an Agile approach, money and time are constrained and the organisation tries to develop as much of a new solution as it can within these constraints. The main objective of each Agile method is to adapt to change and deliver the desired project outcomes as quickly as possible, particularly when supporting an initiative using Agile. In this environment, the change management activities must be stellar to be effective.

There two main Agile approaches that are particularly popular in project management, Scrum and Kanban:

Scrum, the more popular method of the two is used by project teams that are implementing Agile. This starts from the feedback of the end users or customer, relating to what is required from the business. This is then followed by the project team entering a series of ‘sprints’ where iterative work outputs are created under each sprint which last 1-4 weeks and managed by the scrum master whose main aim is to optimise the team’s performance. An Agile team is self-managed and responsible for creating unique ideas to form the ultimate solution in an attempt to address the user/customers needs. 

Kanban is a slightly simpler methodology of Agile, designed around a manufacturing background, Kanban is not time-based and is focused on a set of prioritised activities the funnel of ‘to do’, ‘Doing’ through to ‘Done’. The Kanban must be set in retail and continued to be updated in order for members of the team to view the progress of a project, offering the ability of understanding the pace of work, acting as a single source of the truth for an Agile team.

So, what's the verdict?

When thinking about Agile and Change Management, the end result is the same. Effective change management can accelerate the adoption of Agile and relieve some of the disruption, stress and anxiety caused by the required changes in ways of working. 

This is critical because Agile’s iterative nature, churn, and impact on an organisational climate can create early, and strong, resistance to change. At the onset, Agile can feel like there is less planning time, less opportunity to formalise and standardise, and more chaos. As Agile isn’t governed by global standard process, but by creating trust-based relationships and having vision clarity and risk appetite, traditional change management techniques must be modified to cater to the changing paradigm.

Effective change management can be the bridge between delivering an initiative and seeing tangible benefits; the bridge between completing technical deployment and getting user adoption. A new shiny thing that no one uses (or no one sells, or no one knows how to troubleshoot) has no benefit.

For more insight and best practice change management in Agile, please consider attending our one-day Prosci Intersection of Agile and Change Management Workshop, download the workshop fact sheet.

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Topics: waterfall, agile, change management