The Role of Change Management in an Agile Transformation

The Agile Explosion

The recent explosion of interest in Agile from organisations outside the technology sector indicates a shift in thinking.

There is increasing recognition that, to remain relevant in today’s fast-paced, fluid and competitive business environment, it’s no longer enough for organisations to keep pace with change, they need to embrace and thrive on it. Leaders are looking for the edge to address this challenge and achieve their strategic vision and goals.

For many organisations this means embarking on an Agile transformation, seeking to create a culture and mindset that puts the customer at the heart of everything they do, enable collaboration and flexibility, and harness the ideas and perspectives of
people across the organisation to unleash innovation and results.

Like any change effort, the move to Agile can be exciting, as well as a little daunting.  Ghosts of projects past may be in the back of the minds of leaders and teams alike – is this a fad to be ‘waited out’, how will this impact me and my role, is this a threat to my status or experience in the organisation, and what’s with all the jargon?

So, how can organisations set their Agile transformation up for success?

Integrating Agile and change management principles and practices is key.

The synergies across these two methodologies enable organisations to think holistically about the people impacts of the shift in ways of working, develop a change approach
that fits them, and create confidence and competence to support the move to Agile.

Having practitioners from both disciplines working together with the organisation throughout the transformation supports this effort and increases the likelihood of success.

What is an Agile transformation?

When organisations talk about introducing Agile, the focus can often be on Agile adoption, i.e. introducing Agile practices, methods, tools and ways of working. This is an important and very tangible part of the picture, but this step alone will not create the transformation leaders are often looking for.

The goal of an Agile transformation is not just about “doing Agile” (i.e. learning and applying Agile terminology and methods) but ‘being Agile’.  This means embracing a different mindset and empowering people to enable responsiveness and agility across the organisation. For many organisations this represents significant change.

This is where the synergies between Agile and change management come into play.

What is change management?

Change management is about paying specific attention to, valuing, and actively addressing the people side of the change.

This includes understanding the changewhat’s driving it, who’s involved, who’s impacted and how, and the “what’s in it for me” (WIIFM) for different stakeholders.

Why do this?

Because it is people who will make the change successful by embedding it, living it, and making it happen, long after specialist trainers, coaches and project teams have moved on.


Synergies between Agile and change management

This definition starts to reveal the synergies between Agile and change management. Both disciplines celebrate and place a focus on:

Making People Awesome

Making people awesome – by applying a strong people focus to enable change, create happy teams and delight customers.

Experimenting and learning rapidly

Experimentation and learning sit at the heart of Agile practice, and an effective change approach is also flexible, responsive to feedback and continually assessed and adjusted.

Safe Environment

Creating a safe and inclusive environment – by building transparency, creating avenues for feedback and valuing all input.


Characteristics of a Change Approach

In our next blog post, we’ll introduce the characteristics of a change approach, and some examples of how you could use Agile and Change Management principles to support true and healthy change.

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