Surbhi Dewan

Surbhi Dewan

Management Consultant

Change Management, Meet Agile

The unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic have made agility, already an ambition for many organisations, an operational imperative – for teams and enterprises. As these Agile approaches to delivery spread within organisations, new ways of thinking about managing change and adoption must emerge alongside them.  

What are Agile and Scrum? 

At its simplestAgile is an iterative approach to project management and product development that helps teams deliver value to their customers faster.  

Agile breaks down organisational initiatives into bodies of work, called Epics, which are in turn broken down into bite-sized user stories prioritized according to business value. This process is known as creating a product backlog. These user stories are then implemented and introduced into the organisation in iterations via sprints.  

Scrum is one among many Agile frameworks that emerged out of the software development community and is focused on delivering new capability in 2-4 week increments. 

Both Agile and Scrum have long since outgrown their software development roots and are now being applied more broadly to other business functions from HR to Marketing, Finance to Sales. Agile virtues like the generation of priority-led incremental value, cross-functional collaboration within self-organising teams, and a continual loop of delivery and feedback have demonstrated their value in nearly every imaginable context.  

Change needs to be managed differently in Agile 

The role of change management is to provide a structured approach for supporting the individuals in an organisation to move from the current to the future state.  

Invariably, this future state reflects change in processes, products or services across a large workforce that fundamentally changes the what, the how, and even the why, of their working lives.  

By focusing on engagement and adoption, change management is there to make change stick. 

In more traditional waterfall projects, where change is delivered in a slower, more sequential way ahead of a go-live, change practitioners have a considerable time advantage to plan and execute a Change strategy for the project.  

But when an organisation uses an Agile framework to deliver projects, change practitioners must adapt their approach to manage incremental adoption. Managing Change within an Agile environment is different: 

  • Increased speed and frequency of changeBy rapidly iterating a Minimum Viable Product/Process (MVP), end users are being exposed to a high volume of incremental change. With a constant stream of new functionalities / processes / features going live faster and more frequently than they normally would in a traditional Waterfall delivery approach, there is a risk of change fatigue in end users. 
  • An increased speed and frequency of Change Interventions: As the MVP is being delivered more frequently and faster, the communication, engagement and training load that the change team must bear increases significantly. 
  • Agile can be change, in and of itself: For end users used to working on Waterfall projects, working in an Agile way can itself be a change. Like any change, if not managed appropriately there is a risk or poor adoption and end user resistance. 

Managing change in an Agile environment 

To fulfil their role in an agile environment, change practitioners will need to: 

  1. Accelerate change delivery by planning ahead 
  2. Embed into the Scrum delivery team itself and manage change in real-time 
  3. Adopt an Agile mindset 

In the next part of this series, we’ll look at each of these three imperatives in detail and explain how change practitioners can achieve them. 

Is your change team ready to manage adoption in an Agile environment? Contact Chaucer today to learn more about how we can assist. 

Surbhi Dewan

Management Consultant

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