I’ve come across more than a few change managers and project professionals who are wary or sceptical of agile. It’s different to the way they are used to doing things and they aren’t sure how to apply traditional change practices. I’m here to tell you there’s actually a lot about agile that is great for us, so lean in and get reading!
1. People over Process
Agile ways of working actually encourage projects and teams to seek out the input of customers and impacted teams. Change managers are often the lone voice of the customer or end user on waterfall projects. Seeing things from a customer or employee’s point of view is part of the core principles of agile, and incorporating human centred design principles and artefacts (such as journey and empathy maps) into implementation planning is very common. The manifesto principle of individuals and interactions over processes and tools rings true for us as change managers.
2. Getting the right people in the room
Agile ways of working are all about getting involvement from product owners, SMEs, leaders and sponsors. In command and control environments, stakeholders and sponsors are way too ‘busy and important’ to come along to things us lowly change managers or project folk organise. This is usually accompanied by an expectation that we will implement the change with no effort or input from them. Agile is all about executive and sponsor visibility and participation. Modern leaders are excited to attend agile ceremonies and see what their teams have been up to. Use this to your advantage.
3. Ditch the massive templates
Expectations are for lean documentation and MVP. No one is asking you to complete lots of large templated deliverables, so why are you doing it? Put the PROSCI to one side and get your lean canvas on!
4. Many change managers are agile by nature
A lot of the ways of working that come naturally to us as change practitioners actually link in really nicely with agile. Take the comms plan for example – how many times have you written one and stuck to it – to the letter – for the entire duration of your project? I don’t think I have done that once. We are always reflecting and evaluating how comms land. That process of experimentation and learning is agile (more on agility of change managers here).
5. Lean methods suit lean (aka solo) change teams
We never have the amount of people in the change team to be able to do everything that needs to be done. Being freed of old fashioned expectations about what change deliverables need to be produced is good when you’re under resourced and under the pump.
Recently I was chatting to a mate who was lamenting how he’d found himself in this exact situation. He’d asked for analyst resources and got told no – and was expected to deliver the same amount of work on 3 change projects. Then the go live dates of the projects changed so they were all going live early – and at the same time. He was working a lot of hours but felt like he was just saying ‘no’ to every request. Then he’d been asked by a PM for an ETA on a change plan that had fallen behind. I suggested he start using the lean change canvas instead of the traditional change plan to save himself some time and promptly sent some examples over. If you’ve got competing priorities and a lot to get through some different ways of working can really help you out.
6. Apply the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) concept to change
Developing an MVP for your change effort with your stakeholders upfront is a great idea when you’re working as a solo resource on a large or multiple projects – OR if you’ve been brought on only a few weeks before go live. If a company or program is too stingy to pay for additional resources or too disorganised to bring them on at the right time then they have no business expecting you to work nights and weekends to meet outdated expectations of change.
7. Fail Fast Learn Often
Failure is encouraged – as well as learning by experimentation. Which is great for us changies as we can drop some small changes, and see how they land, rather than a ‘big bang’ go live, and stakeholders expecting everything to be perfect. And blaming poor change management when things go wrong.
8. Done is better than perfect
This can be a hard concept for many of us to accept (myself included!) but because we have permission to fail and the concept of MVP is encouraged, it means we no longer have to fuss and continuously rework our plans to make them perfect (multiple fonts on the same slide are still unacceptable though). Rough and visible work is encouraged and this speeds up delivery. Once you have something that’s getting your main points across and is 70% complete start sharing it with people.
Want more? Register for one my workshops on ‘Delivering Change in Agile Environments’ here.
Natasha is is an experienced change practitioner and project professional, with a proven track record in system implementations, organisational change initiatives and large-scale transformations. She has managed change initiatives at Australia’s biggest companies (including ANZ, Telstra, Australia Post, Accenture, NAB, Newcrest), holds multiple certifications and is well versed in both Agile and waterfall delivery methods.
Natasha’s strong mentoring background has led to multiple opportunities to build change capability within large organisations. She is often sought out to coach individuals, leaders and companies on how to implement change well, demonstrate what good looks like, and build tailored methodologies and models to meet their needs.
Natasha’s passion for all things change led to her creating and hosting a successful podcast (Casa de Cambio) about change, technology, innovation and leadership.