How to deliver constant changes as a part of agile change management

How to deliver constant changes as a part of agile change management

Delivering constant changes is a requirement in implementing agile change management.  With each iteration, a change is being designed and released as a part of ongoing agile development and project implementation.  However, there is little mention in change management literature of how to go about delivering change constantly and be able to achieve optimum change adoption.

Continuous delivery pipeline

The concept of a ‘continuous delivery pipeline’ is a core part of the agile methodology.  It refers to having a structured pipeline of continuous changes being released as required by the organisation.  The pipeline contains a set of features and changes to be worked on, and the resulting prioritised changes are released when and as needed.

The three components of a continuous delivery pipeline that forms an agile release train include:

  1. Continuous exploration – This is about defining and scoping what needs to be built using human centred design approaches to design the problem that needs to be solved from the user perspective
  2. Continuous integration – This step involves taking those prioritised features from the backlog and investigating further to understand what development work is required to turn them into solutions for the user.
  3. Continuous deployment – This is about turning the completed changes from the staging environment into production, meaning the live product that is ready to be used by the user.  After the technical part of the solution is ready to be released, the business then determines when is a good time for this release to go ahead.

‘Continuous Delivery Pipeline’ (From Scaled Agile Inc.)

The ‘technical side’ of the agile team is fairly well defined in terms of the roles and responsibilities of each member, including project manager, developer, QA/testing, business analyst, business owner, etc.  However, the role of the change manager is much less defined and black and white.  This does not mean that there is no role for the change manager though.  It just means that the agile literature has not well defined the details for the role of the change manager in an agile team. ‘Agile change management’ still has some work to do to make itself better known to other agile team members.

So how does the change manager get ready to deliver a series of constant changes?

Delivering a series of constant changes is no easy feat.  The main issue is that most businesses are not designed to face multiple changes, and nor are they designed to face a series of continual changes either.  

Change approaches are primarily written for working on one change at a time, and not in a setting where there are continual releases of changes going on.  On the other hand, how many organisations do you know that are only facing one change?  Or that only deals with one change within a month?  This type of stable change environment may have been the norm years ago when the business environment was much more predictable and stable.  Hence, using a waterfall project approach was appropriate at the time.  Fast-forwarding to the 2020s most organisations are juggling with constant and multiple changes as the norm.

1. Derive a picture of the changes within the continuous delivery pipeline.

Deriving a clear picture of what changes look like within a project is critical.  Without this, you will not be able to clearly communicate to your stakeholders what changes are coming down the pipeline.  

To create this picture, use a human-centred approach and illustrate what the user will go through throughout the change journey.  This is similar to a user journey map.  However, a change-focused picture goes beyond just what the user will be going through.  It also includes not just person-based changes, but also process, policy, system, governance, reporting and other changes.  Outlining these changes will complete the whole picture of what each change release may look like.

A key problem in creating a picture of the changes early on is that the project team may not even know what the solution looks like.  And without particular details of every change release and solution design, it may be hard to create this picture.  

The recommended approach is to focus on what the outcome could look like versus focusing on various technical or process solutions.  This means you may even need to make particular assumptions in defining what these changes look like.  For example:

Release 1: Ability to turn recorded customer conversations into text.  With this feature, there will be new risk and privacy processes and governance be put in place in the monitoring and storage of customer data. 

Release 2: Ability to search for customer conversation history and flag follow up actions required. Specialist roles may be required to audit customer conversation text.  Behaviour shifts in proactively checking on customer history and knowing what to look for in trends is critical.  

Release 3:  Ability to use analytics to predict customer turnover and use this to minimise customer turnover.  Significant capability uplift is required to ensure that consultants are able to know how to use analytics to help minimise customer turnover.  Analytics capability uplift is also required at operations management, supervisor and team leader levels.

2. Map holistic stakeholder impacts.

In order to implement constant ongoing changes, it is critical to understand holistically what the stakeholders are undergoing across all types of changes and other BAU impacts.  Without taking these into account it is not possible to truly understand the capacity of stakeholders and when changes will best ‘stick’ when released.

Some of the items that should be inventoried and mapped include:

  • Impacts from the current project that you are working on
  • Other project impacts that affect the stakeholder at the same time as your project, including any benefit realization periods post project implementation
  • BAU-led initiatives that could include business improvement or quality, and may not classified as ‘funded projects’ per se
  • Key high work volume periods such as end of financial year, holiday season, etc.
  • Audits, planning or reviews where additional work volumes are forecasted

It does take investment and effort to collect all these types of data and most change managers do not bother to do this.  However, it is not possible to implement a successful change when you do not understand what other changes or work priorities your stakeholders are undergoing during the change process.  

It is also important to note that this type of impact data can change constantly and once the data is collected it needs to be verified on a timely basis with any changes and updates reflected over time.  Doing this activity manually can be quite cumbersome so we advise using digital tools such as The Change Compass.

The collected data on what stakeholders are undergoing can be significantly valuable.  Often stakeholders themselves have not undertaken this exercise to truly understand the change journeys and work priorities added together holistically.  They may be surprised by the picture you are presenting to them.  At the minimum, they will value this since it shows that you have a deep understanding of what they will be going through and therefore create more stakeholder confidence.

Examples of data visualisation from The Change Compass

3. Sizing and categorising the impacts of changes

After getting a clear picture of holistic change environment that the stakeholders will be undergoing the next step is to analyse the impacts from your project.  In analysing the change impacts you should be ascertaining the nature of these change impacts including:

  • Size of the impact
  • How long the impacts will last
  • How much time these impacts translate to 
  • Types of these impacts (e.g. people, process, system, customer, etc.)
  • To whom the impacts will be on

Quantitatively sizing your impacts makes them concrete and easily understood.  Armed with this information you are able to examine to what extent the planned releases are the right ‘size’ for the impacted stakeholder groups. This is another critical part of agile change management.  In determining this, the following stakeholder factors are critical:

  • Capacity bandwidth
  • Potential overlaps across various impacts either within the same or with other projects or initiatives
  • Change maturity level and experience with similar changes in the past
  • Leadership support and other change reinforcement mechanisms
  • Overall change readiness
  • Engagement level with the particular change initiative

When you have considered all of these factors you are ready to engage with your project manager, the PMO, and business representatives to assess to what extent the roadmap laid out is effective and will work to maximise the targeted initiative benefits.

4. Business operations routines 

Now you understand clearly the change environment of your impacted stakeholders, various changes within yours’ and other initiatives, and the categories of the various change impacts.  The next step is to clarify to what extent your impacted business units have the right operational process to receive ongoing changes. This is often a neglected part of agile change management.

More change mature business units have over time developed the right routines and processes to absorb changes, especially ongoing ones.  What are some of these?

Effective engagement processes.  Engagement processes are not just one-way communication channels.  Having effective communications channels such as newsletters and town halls are a minimum for employees to hear about what is coming down the pipeline.  Engagement processes include such as effectively choreographed Yammer channels, skip-level meetings (where managers meet with employees 2 levels down), focus group sessions with a small group of select employees, and effective team meetings where information is passed both up and down the chain of command

Effective learning processes.  Effective learning processes at a business unit level includes business operations routines whereby employees have individual development plans (from which training plans can be incorporated), ongoing monitoring of development tracking against targets (e.g. completion rates), virtual learning processes (e.g. employee familiarity with virtual ways of self-initiated learning)

Change champion network.  Most change champion networks are project-based and therefore have a limited shelf-life.  This means that business change champions have a limited time to learn and develop as effective change champions.  They also have limited time to practice and experience what it is like to lead and support change.  A better design for business units undergoing ongoing changes is to have business unit based change champions that can support a myriad of changes across the board.  This flexes their capability.  Also, with constant exposure to changes over time, they are able to continuously develop and become better change champions.  Organisations that have done this well, have positioned this as a ‘talent pool’ for frontline employees seeking to grow into other challenging roles.

Benefit realisation processes.  Tracking and reinforcing benefit realisation is one of the most critical ingredients for success in the impacted business unit.  Usually a month after go-live, the project would have already wrapped up and the business is left to continue the rest of the change journey and achieve the targeted benefits.  To do this the business unit needs to have clear benefit realisation tracking and reinforcing mechanisms, involving Finance and business leaders.  There needs to be constant oversight of how the benefit tracking is trending and leader discussions on resolving any obstacles and providing adequate managerial support to drive the benefit realisation process.  

If your impacted business unit lacks one or more of these ingredients, it is critical that you work on this upfront.  Highlight to business leaders the risk of not having these ingredients in place within the business.  These processes may take significant time and investment to build up.  Therefore, factor in the time required to develop these.  Often, within the challenges of agile changes, these are left until the end, by which time it is too late to try and establish quickly to support the identified project changes.  

To read more about agile changes visit our Agile Change Management section of our Knowledge Centre.

Also, check out our Agile Change Management Playbooks for practical know-how in leading your agile projects.

How to implement change process when your business is not change mature

How to implement change process when your business is not change mature

Often we hear change practitioners call out the challenges of working with organisations that are not change mature.  Yes it is easier for change practitioners to work within organisations that are more mature in managing change.  This means that the change concepts and approaches are easily understood and adopted.  This also means that you don’t need to spend a lot of time covering the foundational approaches of change before driving project results.

When organisations are less change mature, change practitioners need to do a lot more level setting work to explain their role, and foundational change management concepts.  For example, the importance of engagement and authenticity, and getting feedback from stakeholder groups prior to change implementation.

Structured communication and learning channels may need to be setup.  Without these being established, messages may not be flowing between the targeted stakeholder groups.  

However, every organisation is in a different continuum in their development of their change maturity.  How do we work with organisations that simply do not have in place a lot of the foundational capabilities of managing change?

Frame everything as a part of general business management

15 years ago when I was at Intel there was no change management function per se.  There were also no dedicated change management professionals.  What we know now as change management was covered under the work of Project Managers and the Human Resources Organizational Development function.  Most managers were not familiar with change management concepts or applications. 

However, from a learning and development perspective what Intel did well was to integrate managing change concepts within general management skills.  All levels of management development included a component of managing change.  After all, this is an organisation in a fast-changing hi-tech environment where change is a normal part of how the industry evolves.

In particular, first-line manager, second-line manager as well as senior manager development programs all had general management components.  Everything ranging from setting clear goals and expectations, communicating clearly, asking for and receiving feedback, driving for results, supporting and developing the team, were all foundational parts of managerial development.  As a result, the organisation is quite used to ongoing changes either operational, structural or strategic ones.

The point here is that in order to drive successful change, it may not be necessary to have a dedicated change function nor formalised change management development programs.  Change management is a part of general management, just like human resources or operations management.  

The challenge for the change practitioner is to diagnose which parts of the fabric of the organisation is not change mature, and therefore could become potential obstacles for successful change process implementation.  These may include:

  • The ability of targeted leaders in leading change successfully (judging by previous change history)
  • The ability of impacted stakeholder groups including employees in trusting leaders in undergoing the change process
  • The existence of various learning and engagement platforms and processes from which change implementation may leverage throughout the initiative
  • Experience in undergoing change initiatives that follow a structured rigour where stakeholder consultation, ongoing tracking of results, and discipline in execution are adhered to
  • Planning capability in engaging stakeholders using clear fact-based visualisation of impact activities and using this to balance and sequence overall business capacity

After identifying those elements that could potentially impede the successful execution and adoption of change, the next task is to ‘frame’ your work around improving business processes and capabilities to support initiative success.  And the trick of doing this well in change immature organisations is to frame it without using change concepts or jargon.

As hard as it may seem, some of the terms you may want to avoid include:

  • change leadership capability
  • burning platform
  • change champions
  • change vision
  • change approach/strategy
  • change readiness

I know! This sounds like an impossible feat not to use standard change jargon and concepts.  However, this is the key to engaging with organisations that are less change mature.  Instead of change-specific language, try using general business terms instead.  These are some examples:

  • Instead of change leadership capability, leader behaviours required
  • Instead of burning platform, articulating the clear reasons for the change
  • Instead of change champions, business unit initiative reps
  • Instead of change vision, initiative end-state
  • Instead of change approach/strategy, leading our people through the initiative
  • Instead of change readiness, implementation or initiative readiness

In framing your change approach and plan and ‘translating’ this into business-speak.  There are 2 key levels to focus on.

1. Strategic

This is about cutting through to the core of why we are changing and how the change helps to meet a particular strategic goal.  For low change mature stakeholders, this needs to be as basic as possible.  So, none of the lofty elevator pitches that your corporate communications person has carefully crafted.  But, a lay-man wording of why the change is needed and how this helps the organisation.

2. Operational

This is one of the most critical parts of dissecting the change.  It is about breaking down your change approach into the various elements that impact the operations of the business.  It is laying out the operational activities that are being planned to drive stakeholders through the change process.  For example,

  • What process changes will mean for the frontline consultant, in terms of work steps, bandwidth, reporting, collaboration, work focus areas, etc.
  • What technology changes will team for team work in terms of who does work, the frequency of exchanges, the speed and process of decision making, audit tracing, 

Frame change activities as a part of project steps

Another challenge in working with less change mature organisations is positioning project change implementation activities in a way that resonates and make sense.  To make things simple for the business, try and use as least jargon as possible and explain the ‘why’ and purpose of each activity.

Here are some examples.

Change impact assessment -> Why is this needed?  

  • The assessment defines in detail what is changing and how this affects different parts of the organisation, whether is people, process, customer, technology, etc.
  • How to use it? After understanding in detail what is changing, this then helps us plan out how to engage the impacted groups of people, and it also helps us to determine how to give them the right skills and support

Stakeholder matrix -> Why is this needed?  

  • This breaks down which groups of people by business unit, function, team, role, in terms of how we plan to engage with them, using what engagement channels, and how critical or influential they are to the success of the project.
  • How to use it? The information on the groups of people impacted by this project determines those we engage with and how we engage with them.  It also determines those we need to support with the right skills and know-how.  Having the right information of those impacted means that we don’t miss groups of people that we should be engaging with. 

It starts with one – finding the first sponsor/champion

Even if less mature organisations there will be managers who ‘get’ what you are trying to do in driving change.  They may not know the terminology, the concepts nor the ways to measure change effectiveness.  However, experienced managers should intuitively understand the importance of engagement, measurement, setting clear goals and expectations, skills, and capabilities.

When you start to work your way around the organisations you should come across them.  They can help to either ‘sponsor’ your project if they are in the right position and their role has the influencing power over your project.  He/She may not be the ‘project sponsor’, instead, a political sponsor who is influential enough to create clout to drive movement in the change process.

You may also come across various potential ‘champions’ who are passionate, positive about the change, and diligent enough that you can work with to channel change energy into the various stakeholder groups.  These champions may be frontline level, first-line manager, or senior managers.  

Remember, any change starts with one person.  One by one, the change takes shape and the influence takes place through each interaction and each engagement.  Even if you can only have a small number of champions, you will be amazed at the results you can achieve through the dedication of the few.

Use data to tell stories

Even in less change mature organisations, managers use manage to manage the business.  This means, if you can gather the right change data to tell the story of how the initiative may pan out across the business, you can easily communicate and influence the business.  Especially in less change mature businesses, data is absolutely key.  

What are some of the ways in which change data can help to crystalise the importance of change tactics and approaches?

Change impact data can tell a visual and influential story of what is going to happen to the organisation.  For example:

  1. Which parts of the organisation are more impacted?  What roles? What are the relative sizes of impact?
  2. How much time is required for particular roles as part of change implementation activities throughout the implementation phase?
  3. What’s the timing of implementation activities and how do these overlap with other project activities or operational priorities?
  4. Scenarios of implementation roadmap including potential risks and benefits of alternative scenarios 

Other data can be used to tell stories of the progress of the project include, change readiness assessment results, training completion rates, training session satisfaction feedback, stakeholder readership of knowledge article pages, and attendance and engagement level at briefing or town hall sessions.

To read more about measuring change visit our Ultimate Guide to Measuring Change.

How to build change capability without training

How to build change capability without training

Building change capability is ultimately the goal of organisations. Most businesses aspire to be fast-moving, transformative and agile. With the increasing speed of change, organisations need to have the capability to respond accordingly. The speed in which organisations are able to flex and adapt accordingly can mean success or failure. During Covid we have all seen businesses that have closed shop. Others have pivoted and come up with new products and services to survive and prosper.

As change practitioners we all aspire to build strong and impactful change capability with the organisation that we work with. We want to see leaders with strong skills to lead their teams through the change process. We also want to see teams with the tenacity and attitude to be open to and work through the change embedment process.

As change practitioners we all aspire to build strong and impactful change capability with the organisation that we work with. We want to see leaders with strong skills to lead their teams through the change process. We also want to see teams with the tenacity and attitude to be open to and work through the change embedment process.

Doesn’t capability building mean training?

Yes you must have heard your stakeholder say this a million times. The only way to build capability is through training? Wrong. Training is one way to convey knowledge. This is one aspect of learning. But it does not guarantee that the trainee will have the ability or motivation to apply the learning into the workplace. Yet companies spend significant amount of investment sending employees to change capability training. Absolutely, having the knowledge is an important part of acquiring the capability, but again not the only part.

So what else can we do to improve change capability?

Many companies use the 70:20:10 rule in capability development. This means:

– 70% of development should be focused on job-based learning such as challenging assignment

– 30% of development should be from work relationships such as mentoring and coaching

– Only 10% of development should be from training and coursework

This does not mean that these three elements of learning cannot be blended together. In fact, some of the most impactful learning components combine all three elements. A lot of change leadership capability programs combine coursework, together with a real-life assignment on implementing a change project. This is also supplemented with group based coaching.

What are some of other ways to build change capability?

Role modelling

Role modelling has a powerful and pervasive impact on a large number of people, especially when it’s coming from senior leaders. Consciously or subconsciously, the behaviours of senior leaders in managing change can shape the behaviours of those around the leader. How change is communicated, how impacted employees are engaged, and how behaviours are reinforced can be observed and proliferated across the organisation.

Change governance

Other than individual change capability skills, organisations must also build their ability to manage the how change is controlled and monitored across the company. How change governance is designed, and how decisions are made across the organisation are absolutely critical to change capability.

This capability includes:

– How change governance bodies use data to make decisions to monitor and control the planning and implementation of change

– The ability to use various data sources to ‘pulse-check’ on the change readiness of different parts of the business for change

– Quality of decision making process in balancing various business factors of performance, risk, benefit realisation and engagement

– Clarity of the remit of different change governance bodies and the decisions that they are able to make, e.g. at a business unit level versus enterprise level

Operational change cadence

This refers to the capability of a business unit in operationalising change. This includes all facets of business-as-usual changes as well as larger initiatives. Critical elements of operational change cadence includes:

– Different channels of communication and engagement

– Effective system of supporting the implementation of learning content, including online means as well as face-to-face mediums

– Formal tracking of change capability development initiatives across operations, including change champion networks, mentoring and coaching programs, and change leadership programs

– Collection, analysis and insight generation of change impact and the embedment of change, including monitoring change loading and risk of change saturation

How are you going with your progress toward improving your organisation’s change capability? If you would like to find out more about how to use improve change capability through change governance and operational cadence contact us.

Using The Change Compass to improve change maturity

Using The Change Compass to improve change maturity

Click the below to download the infographic

There are 5 major focus areas to improve change maturity.

1.  Strategic change leadership.

Strategic change leadership is about how leaders of the organisation demonstrate personal responsibility, accountability and are able to rally the organisation around the change.

The Change Compass allows leaders visualise the impacts of change across the whole organisation.  This includes the change impacts on business performance and capacity.

2.  Business change readiness.

Business operations need to have a view of what change is coming down the pipeline and be able to influence the prioritisation and sequencing of changes being rolled out.

Data from The Change Compass helps business operations to manage operational challenges whilst delivering the change.

3.  Project change management

This is about the changes being delivered within each project.  Each change delivery needs to be considered and planned as a part of the overall change landscape and not in isolation.

The Change Compass helps stakeholders to visualise what each project is delivering and how this compared to other projects.

4.  Change capability

Delivering change capability through experiencing each change can become a competitive advantage for organisations.

With visible data from The Change Compass, this is like having a step counter attached to the wrist.  Suddenly, the business has a visible and measurable way to see changes being delivered.

This leads to focus, experimentation and continous improvement.  All of these act to drive overall change maturity and business performance.


To read more about building Change Maturity click here.