Characteristics of a Change Approach with Examples


In our previous article, we introduced the synergies between change management and Agile, and discussed how looking after the “people” side of change is important in creating sustainable change.  We discussed the need for change to remain relevant in today’s market, by putting the customer at the heart of everything an organisation does.

The Role of Change Management in an Agile Transformation

As a follow-on, we will introduce the characteristics of a change approach and share examples of how we have used Agile principles as part of a change programme.

Characteristics of a change approach

Applying an integrated approach makes the most of the synergies between Agile and Change Management principles to help organisations make the shift to new ways of working.  Applying a change lens means thinking purposefully about the following change characteristics and activities:

Visible Sponsorship

Identifying and ensuring visible, consistent executive sponsorship of the change.

Steve Denning refers to one of the laws of Business Agility as the “Law of the network”. Agile practitioners view the organisation as a fluid and transparent network of players that are collaborating towards a common goal of delighting customers.  If teams are working in an Agile way, yet still housed within top-down bureaucracy, the network effect cannot take place, and teams cannot truly collaborate and cross boundaries to achieve customer outcomes.  Leaders must truly collaborate to break down those boundaries and make their support visible.

An example of how executive leaders can show support for a change, is to turn up at important events. If a piece of work was important, then it would be high on the priority lists of leaders anyway. That is the true acid test!

A Powerful “Why” Story

Articulating the connection to strategy and creating a powerful ‘why’ story.

As an example, when Teamworx is engaged to initiate an “Agile transformation”, we ask about the connection to the organisation’s mission and strategy.

Talk with your teams about “why” you’re embarking on an Agile transformation (or any transformation for that matter), even before any of the work starts!

Imagine that as an employee, you were invited to a training day. The first time you’re finding out about this is via a calendar invitation. You have no idea why you’re invited or what the purpose of the training is. How would you feel?

Connection to culture and values

Considering the connection to organisation culture and values to ensure organisation fit.

As an example, in a recent Agile transformation, we discovered that all the modern Agile values married up with the organisation’s values … with one small exception. “Experimentation and learning” wasn’t emphasised enough, which made the transformation team realise they needed to consider how to invigorate the energy and willingness to experiment.

In another organisation, there was an L&D programme in place around high-performance team culture. We dovetailed into this programme and added value by teaching teams Agile facilitation techniques, such as running an effective retrospective.


Building Engagement and Excitement

Building engagement and excitement across the organisation.

As an example, a leadership team mimicked the failure bow that one of our trainers did during a course.  They started actively celebrating failure and learnings, and got their teams excited about the notion that failure was ok.  When the first teams organically started their own team Kanban boards, they were invited to showcase their process at an All-Hands.  They celebrated the learnings as a team and a company.

If you’re a leader, consider the little things you can do to build excitement.  Every small gesture adds up!


Setting Expectations

Setting expectations about the pace of change, recognising that individuals with go through their own change journey in different timeframes.

As coaches, we invited our leadership team to share their individual experiences with their teams.  They displayed vulnerability but also had a clear ask of their teams.  This is the message from their General Manager:

“The leadership team attended Teamworx’s Agile training course.  We were personally challenged and felt uncomfortable during parts of the course.  However, we pushed through it and came away with lots of learnings about how Agile could help us get closer to our customers, and get us to focus on what’s important.  I’ll ask that you keep an open-mind and embrace the experience.  I promise you’ll have fun on the day too.”

After the teams attended the training, the leadership team regrouped to collect feedback.  They then responded to the feedback in a considered and supportive way.

Showing Support for People

Recognising the importance of supporting people to develop their skills and knowledge and investing in their professional development.

As an example, one of our clients had teams that became interested in learning visual thinking.  This was a result of attending our 1-day Agile experience which is taught in a visual way.  The request was followed up rapidly, with 2 visual thinking courses delivered shortly after the Agile training.


Be Deliberate about Collecting Feedback

Constantly checking feedback loops to respond to progress, roadblocks and new information.

Ideas about how you can do this as a leader are:

  • Floorwalking to pick up on apparent areas your teams need help with.  These are easy to pick up if your teams have started to adopt a visual culture.
  • Asking your direct reports in their 1-to-1’s for their open and honest feedback.
  • Acting on blockers picked up by attending a daily standup.


Resistors are Your Champions

Being open to the views of change resistors. Rather than seeing them as a problem to be fixed, these individuals can provide valuable information and perspectives and if we take the time to genuinely engage, they can become
the organisation’s most committed champions.

A team member, at one of our client organisations, was resisting breaking down a process.  By encouraging the team involved, and the business stakeholders to come together to understand the difficulties, everyone realised that breaking down the process would result in a quality reduction.  The business owner immediately adjusted the project deadline so that the full process didn’t have to be broken down.  By being open to the view of one “resistor”, a better outcome was achieved.

Celebrating Success

Celebrating successes and measuring progress to ensure long term success and embedding of the transformation.

How about a team selfie after completing a workshop?


Integrating the change lens across the Agile journey and working with these principles sets organisations up to bring about the practice, mindset and cultural shifts they are looking for to support a truly successful Agile transformation.