The Missing Link – The Importance of Change Management in Agile Transformations

March 23rd, 2022
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Ignoring the people side of change during Agile and/or Digital Transformations can have disastrous consequences for your business. We witnessed this first hand when a client lost millions of rands in less than a year, due to the lack of proper change management from the onset of one of their digital transformation initiatives. People were unhappy, assumptions about the transformation journey were made, and although the new system was successfully tested and deployed, there was hardly any take-up, a lot of resistance and push-back from employees. The CEO was dreading going back to their manual ways of working and something drastically had to be done – the decision was made to onboard a full-time change manager as part of their Agile Digital Transformation journey in an attempt to support the people side of this change and what a difference did it make to its success!

When facing change as part of your Agile Transformation, consider these steps based on lessons learnt, to accelerate and streamline your approach:

1. Declare and communicate your change vision

First things first – a clear vision and mission is crucial. Knowing the “why” and what your “north star” looks like, makes it clear and digestible to everyone, less assumptions are made, and more room for understanding takes place.

2. Leadership alignment is critical

Once the vision is clear, it is important to unpack the initiatives, objectives and measures, ensuring they align to the vision. More importantly, the leadership should be confident they can communicate and deliver on any stated commitments in the change vision.

3.Empower and enable champions to drive the change

Senior leaders are often pre-occupied and have way too much on their plate. Building a change network, and empowering them to not only become experts on your projects, but positive change agents thereof, will reduce response time, improve sentiment and drive ongoing collaboration by doing frequent check-ins with the impacted teams.

4.Continuous awareness and engagement

Setting up the right collaboration platforms and ongoing engagement sessions from the start, especially in a virtual operating world, is critical to drive understanding of your change efforts and agile iterations. An important factor here is ensuring your leadership team is active in these sessions and on the platforms. This will create greater authenticity, enable two-way communication and make it easier for leadership to assess employee resistance and/or sentiment as the change efforts unfold.

A few examples of continuous engagement during Agile Transformation can be:

  • Using informal communication channels to update people on real-time changes
  • Using information radiators to elicit feedback from people in a safe way
  • Leveraging the daily stand-ups to communicate changes
  • Making use of various co-created “experiments” to not only make engagement fun and ensure two-way communication, but also reward people who drive swift behaviour change

5. Keep a pulse on people sentiment / resistance

Establishing continuous feedback loops and ongoing retrospective mechanisms to keep a pulse on employee and people sentiments or resistance. By welcoming feedback and input into change requirements, even if it is late to change a process, it creates a safe space for people to ensure the work continues to be relevant and delivers value that aligns to the vision.

Change Management is not a silver bullet, but it will accelerate change and adoption in a progressively fast-paced and ambiguous agile world. If anything, your people will be more engaged and dare we say it, EXCITED about the change. Now is the time to consider how to make change management work as part of your transformations, whether you have taken on a formal adoption of Agile or still in the process of doing so.
If we know one thing that is certain in this moment, it’s that more change is coming. Are your people ready for it?

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