Recently, I have been studying how people, teams, and organizations respond to change. This may seem surprising, but I have found the human side of Agile to be the one aspect that is most often ignored or de-emphasized by organizations that attempt to adopt a new way of working. Change is hard for all of us for many reasons, and without getting too far into the psychology of why this is the case, I would like to offer three simple tips to help set you on the right path towards successful adoption of any agile change management initiative that you may be considering. Take a look and see how this may apply in your environment.
Tip #1 – Consider both skill and will
A critical aspect of change management is how we motivate and influence people to do things differently. In the age of knowledge work, we no longer have the luxury of barking orders and expecting people to simply do what they are told and achieve positive results. We must be more strategic in how we approach change, and one tool that you may consider is the focus on the individual’s level of expertise and willpower to make the desired change. If the team member lacks both skill and will, you have your work cut out for you; you will need to help this person prepare for the change from both the capability perspective as well as the desired perspective. Each individual is unique and must be treated differently to ensure they are equipped to succeed and have the drive to do so.
Tip #2 – Consider training, coaching, and mentoring
Many organizations that I have consulted with invest heavily in training, but fail to achieve the desired results because they either consciously or indirectly forgo other key aspects of change execution such as coaching and mentoring. When trying to enable a team to work in a different way, teams need to understand how to perform their tasks differently, and training alone will usually not be enough. In my experience, the most successful Agile teams that are able to apply the tools and techniques effectively to achieve the desired outcomes usually benefit from hands-on, skilled coaches who can provide guidance that is based on years of difficult lessons learned in the field. Mentoring is also a key activity that will allow teams to build and sustain positive behaviors that will eventually become the “new normal”.
Tip #3 – Buy or rent?
Whether you wish to implement Agile teams for the first time, or you are scaling and growing your Agile practice, you usually have two options: (1) hire a temporary consultant, or (2) hire a permanent employee. Depending on your situation, one may be preferable to the other, and each option carries its own advantages and disadvantages. Consultants may have the desired expertise, but they are often more costly and have little or no loyalty or desire to integrate themselves into your organization. Hence, if you are simply seeking a short-term infusion of knowledge for training or coaching, short-term contractors/consultants may work well for you. On the other hand, if your objective is to build a long-term, sustainable practice that is based on strong foundations and relationships, hiring permanent staff might be a more sensible choice.
In closing, Agile change management is often a difficult and stressful undertaking. However, you don’t have to go it alone. Consider the tips that I suggested and seek advice from experienced team members before taking a giant leap, and the path to success may reveal itself sooner than you expect!