What is the Agile approach to Change Management?
Lately, there has been a lot of speculation on how Change Management and Agile interact, how Change Management can support the adoption of the Agile methodology and how Change Management changes in Agile environments.
Lately, there has been a lot of speculation on how Change Management and Agile interact, how Change Management can support the adoption of the Agile methodology and how Change Management changes in an Agile environments.
Points of attention for Change Management and Agile interaction
When Agile and Change Management interact, there are five points of attention that need to be addressed:
- Less planning time, that means less relevance for Change Management templates
- Less standardisation opportunities due to sprints and continuous development
- Changes show earlier in the process, creating an immediate disruption and resistance
- Change practitioners need to respond immediately
- Agile impacts all organisational levels
What happens in Agile environments where Change Management is not involved
Agile project management includes a number of practices and processes that support the continuous releases and evolutions and that can adapt to sudden changes of requirements. But what happens outside the scope of the project, for example on the people side?
The iterative nature of Agile can create anxiety across the whole organisation, where team members and stakeholders can feel the pressure of having less planning time and less opportunities to standardise processes. Such an impact can lead to a strong resistance to change.
The Agile methodology alone cannot:
- Manage team members to have stakeholders available throughout the project
- Adjust and provide training continuously
- Address stakeholder fears
- Address resistance related to change
Successful Adoption of Agile Starts with Change Management
Switching to Agile is a culture change that involves the whole organisation. The Agile methodology has an impact on everyone involved, from small teams to cross functional teams, software development teams and even product owners, who have to provide more frequent feedback.
Switching to Agile requires adoption, and adoption can be successfully promoted and supported by Change Management.
Change Management needs to adapt to the flexible and liquid nature of the methodology to provide an effective support to Agile, switching from tools and templates to a quicker and more responsive attitude. This doesn’t mean change practitioners have to leave their Change Management tools, they just need to adapt them to an ever-changing and iterative context.
Impact of Agile on Change Management according to Prosci® Research
Prosci® has interviewed change practitioners who have already deployed their Change Management practices in Agile environments, collecting precious insights in their 2017 survey on Change Management and Agile.
Change practitioners gave useful information about the impact of Agile on Change Management, reporting that:
1. Change Management became iterative
Change Management activities started evolving continuously to match the iterative nature of Agile. This evolution also emerged in higher-level concepts (success factors and adoption and usage).
2. Plans became adaptive and living documents
The nature of Agile prompted Change practitioners to adopt a “just-in-time” mentality: plans were constantly adjusted to serve the Agile project and were no more focused on being perfect.
3. Change Management required more upfront work
Participants spent more time preparing, to ensure a quicker response. Practitioners extended their usual preliminary activities, as Agile efforts required more upfront communication, stakeholder engagement and information distribution.
4. Change in less time, at a faster pace
Agile projects left less time to plan, analyse and complete all the Change Management activities, to keep pace with the sprint development process.
Change practitioners need to adapt to changing situations
Change activities and practices are deployed much more frequently, as they have to be reiterated at every sprint. That is the main difference between the waterfall approach to Change Management and the Agile methodology. With a waterfall approach, the solution is designed, approved and tested upfront. With Agile, the design of the solution is created series of sprints, requiring a high level of flexibility and speed of execution, because while the magnitude of changes reduces, the frequency significantly increases.
But Change Management seems to be a great match for a methodology whose name depicts its adaptiveness and response to change.