After years of experience and taking part in hundreds of agile transformations – most highly successful, but a few not so much – we’re pretty comfortable stating that effective change management is the biggest single factor in every successful agile transition.
If you’re currently going agile, or if you’ve already done so but the results have been less than stellar, take a close look at how your company handled (or is handling) change management and you may find the key to opening up the floodgates of success.
Why is Change Management so Important?
The fact is, as human beings, we fear change. We fight against anything that disrupts our status quo.
This is largely subconscious and we can generally battle this natural tendency under the right circumstances. But it’s always going to be there. And if it isn’t properly understood and proactively managed, no significant change will ever work.
Change management is formal term for how an organization proactively gets a handle on its natural tendency to stay the same. It creates the right circumstances to support positive change. Without it, the status quo rules.
Now, an agile transition is a major change. There’s no way it’s going to occur successfully without skilled change management every step of the way.
In our experience, effective change management in an agile transformation includes four crucial components:
- Leadership Support
Change must be accepted and promoted from the top down. Leadership must be fully onboard, which is something that must be visible to the entire organization.
To help companies successfully transition to agile processes, one of the first things we usually recommend is one or more executive ramp-up sessions to get leadership up to speed on exactly what agile is, how they need to be involved in the transition process, and what they can do to help the process go smoothly.
- Organizational Immersion
To get the entire company involved – both consciously and subconsciously – full immersion is required in the transition effort.
One thing that we routinely do is supply promotional agile posters, t-shirts, booklets, and other custom materials that can help rally the troops, build excitement for the change, and keep the transition top-of-mind.
- Organizational Alignment
With all departments fully involved in the transition, it’s vital that the entire organization is properly aligned to support the change and move the program forward.
This requires that everyone is on the same page. Consensus must be built across the board on a set of transitional goals. Often, this involves diverse planning efforts like a communication plan, budgeting plan, and training plan – all of which are mapped out with a schedule and prioritization that keeps the entire organization on roughly the same level at all times.
- Organizational Learning
Finally, education is a key component in helping everyone accept and embrace change.
Basic agile knowledge must be provided to all members of the organization, whether the transformation is directly affecting their department or not. There will be residual effects in HR, Purchasing, and any number of other departments even if they’re not fully moving to an agile framework. Education will help them understand and accept the changes the organization is making as a whole.
Generally, we’ve found an online agile training center provides the best universal resource for training that can be customized to each organization’s unique needs.