Is your organisation practicing Agile project management, or are you considering its use?
Agile started as a project management methodology in the IT and then digital marketing sectors, but its use is spreading. It is a way to tackle initiatives by breaking them into iterative segments called sprints. It borrows from Pareto’s 80/20 principle, giving more weight to individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
The emphasis is on: getting things working over comprehensive documentation; a focus on customer collaboration over contract negotiation; valuing responsiveness to change rather than following a plan.
Self-organising teams that reflect often for efficiency are a key feature of Agile.
A key issue for organisations is how to marry existing change management structures with an Agile approach. There has been insufficient analysis about how to best marry the approaches, so global change management firm, Prosci, did some research. Its 2017 report provides some great insight.
A survey of participants revealed four specific contributors to success when applying change management to a project using an Agile approach:
- Early engagement of the change manager
- Consistent communication
- Senior leader engagement
- Early wins.
The five common obstacles when bringing change management to an Agile project are:
- a lack of understanding of and appreciation for change management
- organisational resistance to Agile
- high volume of incremental change
- increased pace
- middle manager resistance.
Interestingly, this shows obstacles to applying change management in Agile are often symptoms of ineffectively building buy-in for Agile in the first place.
What are the lessons to be learned if you want to effectively adopt an Agile approach to project management and change management?
Your leadership team, including middle managers, must understand and embrace the Agile mindset. In short, build an Agile culture. Project managers and change managers need to come together earlier and communicate and collaborate more. You need to engage staff more than traditionally is the case too, but less formally. Continue to emphasise “the why” but place more emphasis on goals and progress whilst avoiding communication overload.
Change managers and traditional change processes need to change to be more responsive and align more with Agile’s faster process phases.
Within a project using Agile, change management tools can help to achieve the project goals. Precision, efficiency, focus, trade-offs, early engagement and balance must be present for change management to be most effective. But the pace and nature of Agile means that organisations must change. This is nothing new because change is the only constant in business.