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The Agile development approach has been used for over a decade by software teams for its speed, flexibility and ability to respond to market trends. The popularity of the Agile development approach to continuous improvement has increased to be adopted even in non-software projects. This has resulted in a new methodology that needs to be managed and adapted to the existing ones.

Thanks to Prosci®, we have explored the intersection between Change Management and Agile, starting from a recent keynote presented at the ACMP USA conference in Atlanta, GA.

What is the Agile project management process?

Originally born in the 2000s as a software development method, Agile has evolved into a project management approach based on short iterations of work conventionally called sprints.

While the traditional waterfall project management focuses on the big picture, Agile allows for more frequent feedback and reviews of the scope of the project; a big improvement in terms of adaptability to the ever-changing customers’ needs. Agile also helps teams collaborate and innovate at a faster pace.

On the other hand, we must be aware of the disadvantages of Agile. The ones related to project management only (and not Agile development) are:

  • Progress is hard to measure because it happens across several iterations
  • Team members and stakeholders are constantly involved, which demands time and involvement
  • Budget or schedule are difficult to determine upfront

Trust, flexibility, empowerment and collaboration support successful Agile

In Agile environments, team members and stakeholders need to be involved and keep pace with the progress, because Agile is about collaboration between team members and across all teams. Agile also involves a strong presence of the human factor, that’s why values like trust, flexibility and empowerment play a crucial role.

The same human influence belongs to Change Management, whose core revolves around the people side of change. This is why we believe Agile and Change Management not only can interact, but can create great value for the organisation and all the people involved.

Change Management going Agile

The introduction of Change Management into an Agile context requires a shift in the way you work, as you will work at a faster pace in less time.

The first Agile feature you need to adopt is the fit-for-purpose approach, to adapt to a faster pace and the iterative nature of the methodology. In Agile, the fit-for-purpose approach refers to a solution that focuses on what works, letting go of unnecessary features. In Change Management, this results into a leaner approach to communication and less focus on small details, as there may be not enough time between sprints to develop a full communication plan.
However, adopting Fit-for-Purpose is not the only intersection between Agile and Change Management.

Agile development and Change Management values and principles

Tim Creasey, Chief Innovation Officer at Prosci®, in his presentation at  the ACMP USA conference highlighted what happens when Agile and Change Management meet. For example, the traditional Agile development values have a parallel Change Management value:

Agile Values

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  2. Working software over comprehensive documentation
  3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  4. Responding to change over following a plan

Change Management values

  1. Organisations don’t change, individuals do
  2. Without adoption and usage we end up getting “solutions without results”
  3. Individual change impacts are what need to be defined and can be managed
  4. Enabling successful individual change is the key to delivering organisational outcomes

The same parallelism can be seen in the 12 principles from the Agile development manifesto, as demonstrated during the presentation.

3 more tips from our own experience

The more practitioners integrate Change Management and Agile, the more other change practitioners can count on a growing body of knowledge created by Prosci® and other change managers’ advice. Here is our contribution:

01 Don’t reinvent the wheel

In Agile projects the load of training increases and adding another tool or process would result in a training overload. Our advice is to apply a just-in-time perspective to the communication platform you will use, choosing something people know and use regularly. For example, it could be your intranet network or even social media like WhatsApp or Facebook closed groups.

02 Keep it clear and flexible

Ensure everyone involved in your change initiative understands and is constantly updated about the process. You should be flexible enough to address sudden changes in the scope of the project and communicate to those involved in a clear and timely manner.

03 Focus on soft skills

Change Management and Agile, apart from being based on established practices, require a high level of engagement and a strong presence of the human factor. We have learned from our partner Jane Davies that when introducing Change Management in Agile you need to focus on people’s soft skills, because you will need their trust, collaboration, accountability and self-organisation and their respect more than their practical abilities.