The big elephant in the room on managing agile changes

The big elephant in the room on managing agile changes

There is now a lot of content out there on how to manage agile changes, including agile methodology and agile ways of working.   This includes early and continuous engagement, creating a multidisciplinary team and designing smaller iterative changes.  There are kanban and scrum approaches.  What actually happens in organizations in terms of how people experience this?  Most organizations experience this is a series of multiple initiatives going on, all iterating at the same time.  The effect is various ripples of changes coming from different directions, with each initiative driving separate ripples.

Impact of agile changes

Let’s dive deeper into what this experience feels like for the organization.  For the employee, changes are becoming more rapid than before with agile changes.  Most organizations have at least several initiatives going on at any one time. Therefore, the employee will likely experience different changes at the same time.  This could feel very overwhelming and hectic as the employee tries to keep up with a myriad of initiatives that are all working on the goals of the particular initiative.

For team managers this could also be equally overwhelming as various sources of initiative information is handed down and they are expected to be delivering and engaging their teams on the changes.  Getting the details right is often a challenge and it is easy to just ‘pass down’ the given write-up about the initiative without talking through what it means specifically for the individual.

On top of this in a typical agile environment, there are always release changes and changes in the timeline.  So, one of the challenges is that what is communicated through the various channels to engage employees will often be inaccurate as the dates change.  This could create frustration and lack of trust as what is communicated keeps shifting.

For business unit managers the trick is to balance business-as-usual activities for employees and the demands of change initiatives.  There can be occasions when there are simply too many changes at the same time impacting the same group of employees, whilst other times there seems to be little change – feast or famine.  In this situation, there can be significant business performance impacts if there is too much change.  Customer service levels may drop, customer satisfaction levels may be impacted, or work efficiency and work allocation may be impacted.

In a nutshell, the different ripples from different directions could all intersect and meet in one particular part of the business and create potential turmoil and business disruption.  Which initiative is trying to do what?  Which one benefits us more than the other?  Which one requires more effort to get ready?  These are typical questions faced by the business.

So how do we resolve this?

Planning and prioritization

Effective planning across initiatives is critical to managing the various ripples. There needs to be effective agreement across the organization which initiative has the priority using a set of agreed criteria.  Typical factors include benefit size, strategic importance or any non-negotiables such as regulatory requirements.  Both businesses and projects need to be part of this process. Data to support this process need to include all initiatives impacting a particular part of the business, whether it is deemed a ‘program’, ‘project’, or ‘BAU initiative’.  The groups should look for opportunities to potentially ‘package’ certain changes that are more alike so that it is easier for employee absorption and adoption.

A key part of the input into this discussion is change impact.  With clarity of the quantum and nature of change impact at any given time, along with other initiative information, decisions may be made on prioritization and sequencing.  To read more about change portfolio management click here.

Communication and engagement

To effectively communicate with employees within an agile environment where there is constant shifting of timeline some use monthly release blocks versus communicating actual dates.  Another way of addressing this challenge is to continuously remind employees the ‘why’ of the shifting timeline.  This is focused on building employee expectation for the agile environment that there will often be constant shifting of dates and releases.

With multiple changes, it is also important to effectively link initiatives to their intent and goals.  An overarching grouping or linking of initiatives to organizational strategies could be one way of doing this.  In this way, it is easier to draw linkages for employees to seemingly disparate initiatives.

Business forums and routines

As a part of running an effective business operation, it is important to establish the right forums and routines to ensure that there is ongoing visibility of change impact.  The routine should focus on examining the data on what the changes are at any given point in time, what happened previously in implementing changes, what will happen in the next quarter or month, and what actions are required to get the business ready.

There should also be regular examination of the level of ‘change heat’ to effectively manage business performance.  Where there is a lack of heat there could be opportunities to fast-forward certain changes to balance the overall change loading.

The discussion on business readiness and capacity for change should be a balanced one, taking into account any operational challenges.  These could include sales target stretches, resourcing levels, customer contact volumes, and other operational activities.  In this way, the understanding of the employee capacity for change is taking into account a range of activities and focus areas at a given point in time.

The importance of change data

A critical part of creating an agile environment is a reliance on data.  Agile teams are reliant on data in how solutions are developed, tested, deployed and evaluated.   Without data it is not possible to test the hypothesis. In a similar way, the organization also needs to look at how it is collecting and analyzing change data to make effective business decisions.  Managing the various ripples within the organization requires data-based decision making and not gut feel and hunches.

Read more about agile and change management in our article ‘The ultimate guide to Agile for change managers’ or ‘What we need to know about agile we learnt from change management’.

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The ultimate guide to Agile for change managers

The ultimate guide to Agile for change managers

So agile is all the rage at the moment.  Most organizations are implementing some form of agile methodology in how they manage initiatives, anywhere from the waterfall project methodology on one extreme end through to the pure agile project methodology on the other end. Yes, we know that agile may not be for every organization.  Projects where the output of the change is known clearly upfront and where requirements won’t change much throughout the project may not benefit from an agile approach.  On the other hand, those projects where the end design is not known, where innovation would be valued, would definitely benefit from an agile approach.

There are plenty of resources available for project managers on the mechanics of agile methodology. However, the same cannot be said for change managers.  Many even comment that the role of change management has ‘disappeared’ within the agile approach.  There are lots of examples of projects where there is significant change impact on employees and customers, where there is no change manager on the project.

What is the role of change managers in an agile project?  How will change work be modified to suit agile methodology?  How does the change manager create value in an agile environment?  This guide aims to answer these questions and provide a simple and practical guide to aid the work of change managers in an agile environment.  While the guide will not aim to cover anything and everything to do with agile, it will aim to call out aspects the change manager needs to consider in carrying out change work in an agile environment.

Read more about how change management principles are foundational to agile.


Let’s start with the basics of agile – the Agile Manifesto principles

When the agile ‘godfathers’ got together to come up with agile change principles all those years ago, they were quite certain that they wanted to focus more on principles than ‘methodology’ per se.  Since then the intent may have changed in how organizations have adopted this. Nevertheless, it is important to visit the core of what agile stands for.

These are the 12 principles of the Agile Manifesto (from

  1. Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery
    of valuable software.
  2. Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
  3. Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a
    preference to the shorter timescale.
  4. Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
  5. Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
  6. The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
  7. Working software is the primary measure of progress. Agile processes promote sustainable development.  The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  8. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
  9. Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.
  10. The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
  11. At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behaviour accordingly.

Here are some key takeaways that the change manager should note about the agile manifesto, the core of what agile is trying to achieve:

Iterative change

Iterative change is more effective than big bang change.  This is because it reduces the risk of failure and increases the chances of success.  This is also how designers work – making incremental changes to ultimately come up with the right outcome.  This is because with these techniques the project team is getting feedback throughout the process. Therefore, the ‘test and learn’ and prototypes in design thinking are critical as a part of an agile approach. The emphasis on constant change is the core of agile.

Multi-disciplinary team

The power of the smallish and multi-disciplinary team.  Business, technical and specialists from other disciplines are encouraged to work together to come up with innovative solutions to address the problem.  Each discipline may approach the same problem differently, and therefore when we put people with different approaches together we start to get innovative ideas.  Smallish teams also tend to perform better in getting traction and delivering without getting bogged down by hierarchy.  Most agile experts agree that the right size for agile teams would be 6-7 people.

Early and continuous engagement

Another part of what is essential to agile is designing early and continuous engagement. Business representatives are included in the project from the beginning and continue to have strong involvement throughout the process.  This is particularly important as the solution being developed by the project team continues to evolve and change throughout a short period of time.

Key agile methodology terms and approaches

There are two main agile approaches that are popular in project management, scrum and kanban.  A lot of organizations also use a combination of both scrum and Kanban.  Let’s go through these to get a better understanding of what they are and how change fits into these methodologies.

Click here too read more about practical agile tips for change managers.





Scrum is probably the most popular agile methodology used by project teams that are implementing agile. It starts with feedback or input from end users or customers on what the need is and the business requirements. These are then captured, analysed and defined into clear features.  They can also be in the form of ‘user stories’ that outline what the user goes through in the entire process.  User stories are simple descriptions of a feature told from the perspective of the person who desires the capability.  User stories are usually captured in post-it notes on a board (or digitally) to allow visualization of the journey/process.

The project team then goes through a series of ‘sprints’ where iterative work outputs are created under each sprint.  Each sprint is aimed to produce a discrete piece of work output that is tangible and can be used or tested in some form.  Each sprint goes for 1-4 weeks and is managed by the scrum master who’s role is to do anything that optimises the team’s performance.  This is not a manager role who is tasked to ‘approve’ or ‘sign off’ on the work of the team, but more of an enabler and facilitator.  In an agile team, the team is self-managed and empowered to come up with unique ideas to form the ultimate solution to address the user/customer needs.

So what is the role of the change manager in scrum?  The role of a change manager does not really change significantly in an agile setting. Yes, the change manager needs to understand the why and how an agile team works.  However, the fundamentals of the value of change management stay the same. If a project is creating change impacts on the user or the customer, then this is where the change manager steps in. This is not dissimilar to other non-agile project settings.

Let’s dissect the work of the change manager to better understand his/her role in a greater level of detail:

Initial scoping

When we have a high level of understanding of what the project is and what it is trying to accomplish, the change manager would help to scope and size the amount of change impact in concern, the level of complexity involved, and come up with a high level estimation of how much change management support would be needed on this project.  This does not change in an agile project, compared to waterfall projects.

High-level change approach

After the features have been identified and the product owner has a clear idea of what the change is and what it involves then it is time to start on devising the high-level change approach.  At this stage, we still do not know exactly what the solution is, though we have a few likely options to consider.  Through taking a few assumptions we can devise a high-level view of what change approach would work.  A key part of this approach would involve understanding which stakeholders will be impacted.

Agile projects are focused on producing output and solutions and there is significantly less focus on documentation.  However, this is not to say that documentation is not required.  Instead, documentation tends to be more summarised and slimmed down versus the significant longer documentation required under waterfall methodology.  In this phase, the two key documents are the high-level change approach and high-level change impact assessment document. Some even use a ‘change on a page’ similar to a ‘plan on a page’.  The high-level change impact assessment could also be a one-pager that calls out key stakeholder groups impacted and the nature of the impacts.

Design and planning phase

When we get to the design and planning phase of the project the key focus starts to shift into detailed articulation of what the change is.  In this phase, the approach in change work is again no different than under waterfall. However, the difference is that there may be more unknowns as the solution is being developed and shaped iteratively and continues to evolve over each iteration or sprint.

The change manager needs to determine when there is sufficient information to start to work on the detailed change impact assessment.  And this impact assessment will undoubtedly need to be reviewed and potentially updated as the solution changes.  Other key deliverables such as stakeholder matrix, engagement and communication plan, change plan (including measurement) and risk assessment should also be captured, depending on the level of change complexity.

The role of the change manager is to partner closely with the team to flesh out and define what the change is and what the change approach is throughout each sprint.  Some may call out that this may sound quite messy since with each iteration the change approach could change.  In practice, a lot of the impacts and change approach are fleshed out and captured before or during the sprint planning.  With each scrum and iteration, the solution becomes more and more defined, and only tweaking would be needed on the change approach.

Early and continuous engagement is a key agile principle and therefore the change manager has a critical role to play in engaging the various stakeholder groups.  Depending on the nature of the change, business and stakeholder engagement may need to occur prior and during each iteration. 

For example, business stakeholders may need to engaged on what the new system is, and how/what it will do for them, and how they will be impacted. Then, when we are closer to having developed a full solution with system screens being defined, we can show our frontline employees what the system looks like.  Throughout the iteration process, subject matter experts and business representations, and even change champions groups have critical roles to play in providing valuable business feedback.

Another key agile principle is focused on getting end user or end customer feedback early, and continuously throughout the development process.  The change manager needs to work with the business to carefully the right end users to provide feedback (versus managers who may not know the intimate details of business requirements).  The change manager also needs to balance the needs to the business in being engaged on the what/why/how of the change early on, and incorporate more details of the solution throughout the iterative process.

Implementation and post-implementation

Since agile produces change at a faster pace than waterfall approaches, there are a few things that the change manager needs to adapt to.  One of the key challenges for the change manager within an agile team is not to lose sight of the fundamentals of managing change.  Within the series of iterations, keeping the business engaged and involved is key. 

On top of this, understanding and agreeing with the business the most optimal go-live and implementation period would is critical.  Just because the change is ready technically, it does not mean this is the right time for the business to accept the change.  On the other hand, there could be complexity or technical challenges that delay the anticipated go-live (like most projects, in any methodology).  This needs to be managed effectively and there needs to be clear identification of the next ‘window for change’ from the business perspective from the perspective of the business having the capacity to digest the change.

Some propose that the change manager should ‘adopt’ agile way of implementing ‘test and learn’ in implementing change.  Whilst this is valid there are a few considerations.  Implementing agile does not mean that how our employees respond to change will suddenly change. 

From previous experiences in implementing changes, the change manager should leverage what has or has not worked and not start from zero.  For example, how was the reception from a particular business unit to online learning of new products?  What has worked well in terms of how this group was engaged previously? If there is little experience in change within a particular part of the organization, then it makes sense to conduct pilots to test.  However, again, leverage from previous experiences where possible before starting ‘new’ tests.

Post implementation and benefit realisation are still applicable from the perspective of the change manager.  Planning for effective embedment and measurement of change and that the benefits are realized through the users adopting the right behaviours are still valid under agile.

Read about the 5 things Eames taught me about agile project delivery.



Kanban is a simple agile methodology that was developed from a manufacturing background (i.e. Toyota). It is not time-based, unlike Scrum. Instead, it is based on ordering a set of prioritised activities through the funnel of ‘To do’, ‘Doing’ through to ‘Done’.  The list of activities is prioritised meaning that after one task is completed and moved to ‘Done’ the next activity on the list may be undertaken.  This overall list of activities can be seen as a ‘backlog’ where a set of activities have been determined to be necessary to complete the project.

This kanban board needs to be real time and constantly updated so that the team members can easily visualize the progress they are making and how much work is outstanding. This is a great way of understanding the pace of execution and output achieved.  The cycle time of measuring how long it takes tasks to move from ‘To Do’ to ‘Done’ helps to forecast the delivery of future work.  The kanban board acts as the single source of truth for the agile team.

All of the previous comments regarding scrum and implications on the work of the change manager apply to kanban as well.  The change manager, working along-side other agile team members, would also need to adapt to the faster pace of change, and work within the team to identify any obstacles to the overall workflow.  Change management work activities would also contribute to the overall kanban board and flow through this process.

Building the change environment for agile

There are significant opportunities for the change manager to add value in creating the right change environment for agile initiatives to land successfully.  Some of these include:

  • Helping business leaders, including sponsors and business owners to understand their role in leading change within an agile setting
  • Support the design and dynamics of the agile team to really flourish, to generate innovative ideas and to leverage diversity of thought
  • Work with business stakeholders to prepare them for iterative agile changes where the end state is not always clear from the beginning. The challenge of crafting a clear vision of change without the necessary details
  • Helping to build the overall culture of the organization in adopting agile principles, itself a separate cultural change exercise. For organizations that are risk-averse the challenge may be to instill the value of ‘safe to fail’

The ultimate dilemma for the change manager

One of the ultimate challenges of preparing the organization for an agile environment is to understand the environment itself.  When there are numerous agile projects going on in organizations, each with continuous iterative change, there lies the challenge.  How does the business get visibility of all of these chunk-sized changes and be able to prepare for them collectively?  Without a clear oversight of a collection of changes that are constantly moving it is almost impossible to effectively lead and embed changes effectively.

The solution is to adopt agile principles in preparing the organization for multiple agile changes. Think – visualization, measurement, reporting, collaboration, flow, and continuous delivery.  The change manager needs to support the view of change by working with agile teams to make visible the changes being planned for at any given time.  One set of changes from one project may seem simple enough to articulate.  With multiple projects, this starts to become complex and difficult to make clear to business stakeholders.  Without clarity and understanding, it is hard to be ready for change.

With the right data on what is changing, when, to what parts of the organization, the change manager or business leader can better plan for change.  This insight can be utilised to better empower the business to understand their own change capability at a given point in time.  On the other hand, this also helps the agile project teams to better understand what other changes are being released into the business. This collaborative sharing of information helps with planning across projects.  For example, if a project is going to be delayed in its release, a clear visualization of the change slate within the business can help with identifying other time slots where the runway is clearer for the business to better digest the change.

Read more about how to manage a peak change period resulting from Agile.

Examples of visualization of change impact data from The Change Compass:



In the new and exciting world of agile there are those who trumpet the end of change management as change roles are not specifically called out in agile methodologies. However, it is quite the contrary as outlined in this guide.  The challenge for the change manager is not only to understand agile and find his/her place in this approach but also to add additional value by helping the organization to deal with all the various impacts of agile.  These include cultural, leadership, ways of working, roles and responsibilities, process and operational planning perspectives.  This could be lead to the next phase of development for change management.

Read our ultimate guide to change portfolio management.



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5 things Eames taught me about agile project delivery

5 things Eames taught me about agile project delivery

Recently I was reading about the creative process of Ray and Charles Eames, the couple who epitomized modern furniture design in the 1940s-60s. I was immediately struck by how many agile concepts were championed by Eames all those years ago. What we now know to be the ‘new way’ of implementing projects in-fact go back a long way.

Here are some of the agile principles that have been championed by Eames in their design process.

1) Not reinventing the wheel

To deliver on the challenges of a new project the typical team often relies purely on the brain power of the existing team members in all facets of the project. However, there are significant opportunities to leverage from various experiences either within or outside the organization. This can include:
– Previous roll out experience of this particular product/service and how employees or customers experienced this roll out previously
– How to work with particular stakeholder groups as experienced by other project team members
– The successes and failures of the approaches that others have taken in designing the project solution (either technical or process solution)
– The approaches previous project teams have taken to meet the timeline challenges and lessons learnt
– The successes and failures of other teams in implementing any learning and development interventions as part of other projects, in terms of systems, content design and roll out approaches

2) Continuous testing and learning

Agile project approaches focus on iterative design and releases so that the project team can learn from each iteration. With each iteration, the overall solution then becomes more and more fit-for-purpose.

However, continuous testing and learning should not just be restricted to those project team members focused on process or technology design. All project team members should be involved in this. For example, from a change management perspective:
– Testing messages with employees to see if the message resonates and is appealing. One can also leverage the A/B Testing approach of coming up with 2 messages to test and seeing what the responses are. This can be done digitally (channeling half of the users to one version and the other half to the other version) and assess the impact of the message.
– Testing the learning content with users. For example, select a module to test with a sample group to collect feedback on whether the content is appropriately structured, positioned at the right level in terms of detail and clarity and using the right medium/channel
– Testing impact assessment details with users. Most projects select business representatives or subject matter experts to test the impact assessment details. However, testing impact analysis and understanding with end users can be hugely valuable to obtain a much more accurate assessment

Check out our article on what you can learn about change management through a famous Eames video.

3) “Respecting the materials at hand”.

Understanding the capabilities, limitations, strengths, and weaknesses of the resources that the project team is working with are key to success. Resources, in this case, should be broadly viewed as including such as people resources, system resources, process maturity, and stakeholder capabilities.

The ability of the project team to understand and ‘read’ the capability levels of stakeholder groups to be able to learn, adapt, and embed new processes and behaviours needs to form a part of the work of the change lead. With better understanding, the project is then able to formulate the right design and support interventions to help drive and embed the new changes.

4) Come up with new perspectives and new ideas through play and fun

The Eameses continuous incorporated play and fun into their lives and it was through this that new ideas and perspectives often appeared. For the project team, incorporating play and fun is also important. Some examples of this could be a ‘hackathon’ for team members to go out of their comfort zone and come up within a short period of time (often 1-2 days) a problem and an already designed solution to fix it.

Periodical team development and bonding sessions could also be designed to incorporate a sense of play and fun. The trick is to incorporate elements of play and fun outside of the project context, as well as then linking things back to the project at hand. For example, the facilitator for the development session could design into the session dialogue around how their experiences have helped them to realise a different approach or idea of how they would work differently.

5) “Eventually everything connects”
One of the most important principles touted by the Eameses is that “eventually everything connects”. This is quite a profound statement in that it forces us to think broadly about what are the elements we are working with and how are these elements connected together. For example, how are our processes, the system design, the stakeholder communications, the learning interventions, and project branding, all connected together to form a system?

Whilst the elements of the system at a project level is critical. The project team also needs to look broadly across the organization to understand what is going on and what are all the dots and elements and how they are connected. To put this into illustration, what are other projects and changes that the organization is going through? How are these interlinked or not linked to the current project? How are other initiatives impacting the same parts of the business that this project is also impacting? As a result, how do we help the stakeholders to connect the dots around how different initiatives are connected to support a particular strategy or focus area? All these are important considerations for project and business success.

Read our ultimate guide to agile for change manager.


What we need to know about agile we learnt from change management

What we need to know about agile we learnt from change management

Agile is a software development approach.  However, it is now applied not just in software development but also features prominently in project management and operations management. With the increasing popularity of agile, change practitioners are also rushing to re-position and tailor their work to support the agile environment.

On top of the basic agile ‘manifesto’ that outlines agile principles, there are now numerous organizations providing the technicalities of how to implement and support agile.  Many are overwhelmed by the various practices such as scrum, kanban, refactoring, etc. Agile may be applied to a project team, program, or portfolio level.

I went through the Scaled Agile certification process and was amazed at how much basic common change principles are embedded within the agile approach. Through the multi-day training course, case studies and the examination, I was quite interested in how a lot of foundational change principles that are common sense for us in change management, are somehow ‘new’ for technical leads or project managers.  Agile incorporates what change managers have been calling out all along.  To read about how Ray and Charles Eames showed us agile project delivery click here.

What are some of the foundational change management principles incorporated within agile?

Individual interactions over processes and tools

The nature of technology environments is that technical professionals are valued by their technical know-how.  Therefore, when there are problems and opportunities for improvement the first that comes to mind is usually a technical fix.  We all know of Technology departments that are fantastic in designing technical solutions and features to resolve problems.

However, the agile manifesto is focused on people and interactions.  Teams work best when there is constant interaction to ensure effective communication, clarity and understanding of the work at hand.   Processes and tools can resolve problems when the teams and people that develop them are clear and aligned.  Processes and tools are also to be used by people.  So testing to what extent these meet people needs will determine their success.

This principle is music to our ears as Change Managers have always been proponents of influencing the project team to focus on people and behaviours, rather than systems and processes.  People are the centre of what Change Management is about and this principle, as a key tenet of agile, highlights the role of people and behaviours.

Early involvement of stakeholders

Agile projects can move fast.  As a result, it is critical to bring people together early in the project development lifecycle to ensure there is clear alignment and understanding.  Moreover, it helps to foster team relationships early on. Typical practices include bringing a wide range of stakeholders including project sponsor, subject matter experts, technical leads, change lead, business leads, etc. early in the project inception stage in workshops.  Assumptions are drawn out.  Expectations are set.  Relationships are built.  This then sets the stage for effective team performance.

Change practitioners have always touted engaging stakeholders early on to ensure buy-in and alignment.  This goes beyond just formal communication.  This is about having a discussion, a dialogue and being able to test assumptions to drive full clarity early on across the project team.

Empowering team members

Traditionally the project manager would be the key decision maker in all aspects of the project including solution features and which member works on which piece of work.  This traditional command and control style has now given way to a more empowering approach of managing a team and getting a better outcome … from having teams make most of the decisions about the solution and its features.

An inherent part of agile is about enabling decisions to be made at the level where those roles have the most information at hand about the subject.  For example, rather than the project manager making the decision about what the solution looks like, the team who are involved in the details of the solution more than anyone else would make those decisions as a team. In fact, effective agile teams are often self-organized.  The project manager’s role is about coaching and enabling versus making decisions on behalf of the team.  His/Her role is about clearing the way so that there are no obstacles to complete the work effectively.

The work of change managers have always focused on team dynamics and employee empowerment is a foundational principle for team development and engagement.  A part of the change manager’s role is supporting the development and functioning of the project team.  This involves designing the role in a way that maximizes engagement and empowerment.  Designing the right organization leadership is also high on the agenda of Change Management.  Open and autocratic leadership means that the leader encourages innovation, experimentation, and open discussion about the work at hand.

Cross collaboration

Effective agile projects are based on the design of having team members of different disciplines, often from different departments, collaborating to achieve an outcome.  The diversity of having team members from different disciplines working together brings different perspectives.   Hence more innovative ideas are generated than having one team where everyone approaches the problem in the same way due to similar functional backgrounds and skill set.

Agile practices to support cross collaboration include cross team daily stand-ups, release planning, retrospectives, etc.  These practices require that different disciplines come together to contribute to the project.

A constant challenge and focus for Change Management is on fighting silos and promoting collaborative behaviors toward the project end state.  change managers typically achieve this through workshops, communication, campaigns, and influencing leaders and the initiative sponsor. We also do this through role design and fostering the right culture and behaviours.

Design bite-sized changes

One of the most fundamental agile principles is the idea that rather than launching a very large big-bang approach to change, it is better to break down the changes into smaller pieces.  The change should be iterative, incorporating continuous learning and improvement.  In this way, the risk of big failure is avoided and replaced by much smaller failure risks.

Change Management is concerned with matching the size of the change with the change capability and capacity of the impacted audience groups.  Bite-sized changes are easier to digest for users.  We avoid the risk of change fatigue and disrupting business-as-usual.  Change managers intuitively assess the ability of users to accept changes.  Smaller pieces of changes are always more palatable than large big changes.


Agile acknowledges very explicitly that the ultimate responsibility for the adoption, success and ongoing improvement of lean practices lies within an organization’s manager and leaders.  The leaders are responsible for steering the organization toward agile and lean behaviours. This responsibility cannot be delegated. Leading agile involves role-modeling the right behaviours, providing the right environment for teams and ensuring that there is continuous team learning.

So, for those who come from a more technical background and are learning about agile – look no further than foundational change management principles to truly understand many of the core agile principles.  For those in Change Management, do not be overwhelmed by the various agile jargon and the various technicalities and practices.  Look into the core change principles you already know and preach before supplementing these with agile practices.   Let these be the foundation as you practice agile, as agile is more about the principles and the mindset, than the technicalities and peculiar practices.

To check out our Ultimate guide to agile for change managers click here.


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What is missing in driving change management in an agile setting?

What is missing in driving change management in an agile setting?

“Agile is all the rage at the moment in driving change and transformation. There are many who call out the importance of stakeholder management, communicating regularly, ensuring strong sponsorship and clarity of business requirements. Others emphasize on the need to have continual people interactions versus documentation and processes. For the uninitiated all of these seem to make sense, but yet not that different compared to using other methodologies in other projects.

One of the key tenants of agile involves releasing a series of smaller changes rapidly, learning and adjusting from each release, rather than spending a longer time to work on a much bigger release that may or may not be successful.

However, releasing a series of changes can be unsettling, disruptive and hard to keep up for employees. This is especially the case for larger programs when the timeline could go for more than 1 year. Combining several programs together, and you can imagine the unsettling rather of these changes on employees and the business.

How do we resolve this? The key is to provide a strong picture of the end state and how things will look like and set the expectation that there will be a series of changes, providing examples of these as well as explaining why this is an effective way to drive change. Yes We may not know exactly the details of the end state, but the business should be clear in the overall outcomes and key works to get there.

To do this effectively we need to be able to connect the dots and tell the story of the journey of change and how the different changes connect together to lead us to the end state. Sounds simple? Yet lots of companies are not able to reach this outcome due to a big pipeline of changes.

The solution? Use digital means connect the dots and not rely on personal interpretation. Use a digital tool to examine what is coming down the pipeline, and therefore create meaning and better prioritize initiatives to move the business forward.”