KVP Group Blog

Change Management in an Agile Environment

The Prosci Philosophy 

Change management in an agile environment is a growing topic if discussion. However, the project’s actual integration and how it impacts change-management has been moderate to meager.

I have 20 years of experience in consultancy and coaching as a Prosci licensed change-manager. 

With this in mind, I’d like to combine aspects of the Prosci philosophy with my own wide-spread experience in providing change-management consultancy and coaching using an Agile methodology.

In 2016, following extensive research, Prosci decided to undertake the challenge of correcting this. This is conducted by enlisting change practitioners’ expertise who had experience in disciplines conducive to the Agile method’s principles. 

After all, consulting and change-management must be both adaptable and flexible.

On September 12, 2017, Prosci released the results of this research in their 2 part report – ‘Change Management and Agile: The Intersection of the People Side of Change and Agile Development Processes‘.  

Part 1 of the report examines best practices in managing personnel and the challenges they face when changing from a Waterfall system to Agile. As this approach changes organisational and cultural practices, it becomes ‘Agile Transformation’.

Part 2 of this report examines productive methods of adapting and adjusting a project’s change management by using Agile. 

In this blog, I will share with you observations of Agile and its effectiveness in change management.

What is the Impact of Agile on Change Management and What Do We Need?

We must maintain the core principles of the Agile delivery. However, aspects are open to negotiation. It must be remembered that situations change from day to day, so there is less risk of bewilderment and consternation by incorporating flexibility.

During studies of change-management in an agile environment, participants identified four main impacts. Additionally, we included a fifth that we believe is just as important.

  1. Repetitive
  2. The creation of plans that incorporated modifications if needed
  3. The requirement of more preparatory input
  4. Required changes in timeliness and speed
  5. Sensitivity in human aspects. 

The change manager or consultant must take a flexible approach when using Agile as those people involved in the process may find changes to management strategies and procedures difficult to accept.

However, given the rapidity of changes when using Agile, there is a scope that allows refinement and focus, thereby creating precision and efficiency whilst allowing adaptations in the coaching in people skills.

What Are the Greatest Contributors to Success When Integrating Change-Management in an Agile Setting?

‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’. This Chinese proverb represents what its like using Agile to achieve change-management success.

Participants identified four main contributors that they believed gave the greatest success.

  1. A prompt appointment of a Change Manager
  2. Effective communication channels
  3. Appointment of a Senior Leader.
  4. Prompt successes

Communication and commitment between the Agile team and the change-management team are major contributors to success. Personnel must be neither daunted nor overwhelmed by the technical and/or digital aspects of change.

Therefore, Senior Leaders and Managers need to engage with staff at all levels with a consistent approach whilst providing momentum and encouragement to maintain progress.

Furthermore, we must remember the importance of a ‘pat on the back when successes are achieved.

What Are the Common Obstacles When Bringing Change Management to an Agile Project?

One of the greatest stumbling blocks in adopting change management is the lack of planning relating to the human aspects of change.

Organisations primarily focus on processes, digitalisation, and procedures before considering the human aspect of change.

We identified five of the most common obstacles from the studies using Agile development strategies.

  1. Insufficient knowledge and recognition for the need to change. The introduction of early and targeted coaching can alleviate this obstacle. 
  2. Human nature’s natural resistance to new processes, i.e., Agile.
  3. Continual change and the challenges they pose.
  4. The speed at which new changes overtake practices.
  5. The reluctance of middle managers to oversee changes. Once again, we can overcome this with relevant coaching sessions.

These obstacles highlight that a major stumbling block in the transition to Agile revolves around the effective management of the human resources involved. 

To summarize, we can alleviate the lack of support and enthusiasm for change across all levels by implementing suitable coaching throughout the transition. 

How Do the Practice Areas of Change Management Look Different?

Prosci believed that the researchers emphasised the need for a new and cutting-edge approach. Consultants needed a targeted directional approach with support and guidance in transitioning to change management in an agile environment. 

We analysed this research and identified ten change-management competencies for investigation.

Firstly the seven top contributors to success:

  1. Sponsorship
  2. Approach
  3. Resources
  4. Integration of change-management and project-management
  5. Engaging employees
  6. Communication 
  7. Engagement of managers

We then included three further areas as according to the research:

  1. Training
  2. Resistance management
  3. Reinforcement

Our studies allowed us to collect further data from the participants listed below:

  1. The challenges faced with the application of Agile
  2. The adaptation that had to be applied
  3. Importantly, what to do differently in the future.

The full report is available to read that provided complete write-ups on these practice areas. 

The Ten Practice Areas

For this blog, I have provided a short synopsis of the ten practice areas below:

  1. Punchline
  2. Sponsorship – Sponsors must understand and embrace the Agile mindset. Sponsor participation must become more precise and efficient.
  3. Engagement Middle Manager – Managers need to be equipped with Agile resources and training and engaged with face-to-face communication. They need to be equipped for how their role changes across the project. Employees must become fully engaged more, yet, paradoxically, with less formality. Engagement should also promote the Agile culture.
  4. Approach – The change management approach must align to Agile process phases and be selective regarding which activities drive value.
  5. Resources – Change management resourcing needs vary across an Agile development effort and must be ready to adapt based on the employee impact during any given phase.
  6. Integration with Project Management – The change management and project teams must integrate earlier, with higher communication and collaboration levels.
  7. Communication – Communication requires precision and increased frequency aligned with the Agile process but must also be managed well to avoid overload.
  8. Training – Training must be focused, concise, and delivered more frequently, emphasizing timely training.
  9. Resistance Management – A formal resistance management plan with increased communication, emphasizing the “why” of both Agile and the project, can build buy-in.
  10. Reinforcement – Reinforcement is required early and more frequently to match the all-embracing approach, emphasizing goals and progress.

What Does This Mean for You?

Agile continues to evolve as a new and exciting change-management procedure by dividing projects into specific and manageable sections.

It is now used across the whole spectrum of software, and IT changes to non-IT projects, with successful outcomes. Using Agile within a project, we can achieve efficient, sustainable, and positive results.

However, the whole process of change-management must change. For projects to achieve these results, the need for precision and goal-orientated targets whilst bringing onboard all personnel affected must be present from the earliest stages.

Contact us if you have any questions.