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Change Management | 10 MIN READ

How to Create the Best Agile Change Management Process

When done right, strong change management can ensure a seamless digital transformation process for your business. Establishing a structured, agile approach will also prevent your organization from falling behind the IT investment curve.

Jump to the main takeaways:

 Define Change Management
 Think Beyond the Traditional
 Implement a Real-Time Process
 Develop a Flexible, Purposeful System
 Optimize Your Resource Usage
 Monitor and Refine Your Processes
 Be The Exception to the Rule


Last year alone, 46% of businesses were operating as either purely agile or hybrid agile approach to their operations, and more than 85% of software developers use agile in their work.

Therefore, if we combine those two concepts, agile change management means your organization must have a flexible, people-centric approach to technological integration, risk reduction, and stakeholder buy in.

To avoid major digital transformation pitfalls, you need to create an agile change management system that aligns with your long-term business goals. According to the Harvard Business Review, this is far from a common occurrence, with 70% of organizational change projects ending in failure.

This process shouldn’t involve webs of approval-based red tape or rely on more traditional ways of thinking–they’ll only slow you down. agile change management is all about working efficiently and following a lean, iterative blueprint that facilitates the execution of deliverables, instead of acting as a blocker to achievement.

Here’s how to build the best agile change management for your business:


Set Goals by Defining Agile Change Management for Your Business

Before you can build a strong change management plan, you first need to define what the term means for your organization and its future.

According to CIO contributor Bart Perkins, the nuances in the change management conversation shouldn’t be ignored:

“In modern IT, change management has many different guises. Project managers view change management as the process used to obtain approval for changes to the scope, timeline, or budget of a project. Infrastructure professionals consider change management to be the process for approving, testing, and installing a new piece of equipment, a cloud instance, or a new release of an application. ITIL, ISO20000, PMP, Prince2, as well as other methodologies and standards, prescribe the process to gain approval and make changes to a project or operating environment.”

Later on in his piece, Perkins boils down his change management definition into a succinct description of what is essentially the common ground that both IT and non-IT team members share throughout the process:

“Change management reduces the risk that a new system or other change will be rejected by the enterprise. By itself OCM does not reduce costs or increase sales. Instead, it increases the teamwork required for the enterprise accept the change and operate more efficiently.”

From a philosophical perspective, change management is about following through on risk minimization and encouraging acceptance when it comes to widespread adoption. In this sense, change management is as much a people-centric process as it is about new tech.

This is important when you consider the intersection of the agile method and a business’ change management strategy. In fact, the Agile Manifesto highlights the importance of valuing “individuals and interactions over processes and tools” and “responding to change over following a plan.”

Implementing that kind of change management system requires a commitment to non-traditional thinking from all corners of your business.


Create a Sound Strategy By Thinking Beyond Traditional Change Management

Rigid plans with a narrow focus, cryptic reasoning and top-down communication, unwavering commitment to outdated processes–these are all factors that add up a change management strategy suffering an untimely death by a thousand cuts.

The 12 principles behind the Agile Manifesto largely go against the traditional breakdown of what used to be known as change management. Spreadsheets, overplanning, and over discussion replaced action and adaptability. Too often, decision-makers played it safe.

For your change management process to have any lasting impact on your business goals and day-to-day operations, you must introduce the idea of iterative progress and emphasize the value of multiple, smaller deliverables. Waiting for the stars to align and taking too long to execute your change management plan will do your organization more harm than good.

Consider Nokia’s recent rise-and-fall-and-rise story. In the early-2000s, they were the world’s top cellphone manufacturer, with their share price soaring to nearly $60 in the spring of 2000. However, after top executives turned a blind eye to the possibility of bringing the first touchscreen smartphone to market, their share price tumbled to $2 in the summer of 2012.

Like they had done several times in the past (the company was founded in 1865), Nokia used out-of-the-box thinking to pivot their main focus towards becoming a networking and service provider, a move that has brought their branding image and profit margins back to respectability.

The moral of the story here is that you need to be able to activate your organization’s change management process quickly and, through agile, implement huge organizational shifts where and when they’re needed–even if those notions don’t fit in with already-built future plans. It can literally save your company and keep it competitive over time.


Implement a Real-Time Agile Process to Boost Productivity

Playing the waiting game with your change management process is never a good idea, especially considering the rate at which technology shifts and evolves in the modern era.

Executing a change management strategy should always keep any ongoing software development processes and timelines in mind, since adopting new technologies or methods of operation will undoubtedly impact how your IT staff does their work.

The reason for this is not to be controlling or domineering, but rather to deliver continuous, iterative improvement in tandem with your development team. If not, one or both parties could be stuck waiting days, weeks, or even months to move on to the next phase of the organization’s global change management vision.

You can bake real-time agile practices into your change management process by:

  • Embedding change instructions into documentation while a new feature or software platform is being developed (instead of being tasked with more work after QA is done)
  • Working with developers, product owners, and UX designers to establish guidelines for intuitive functionalities or built-in prompts that will facilitate smooth transitions for other team members or clients
  • Always keeping feedback and communication channels open to ensure that every stakeholder always has the most up-to-date information on hand.

This emphasis on up-to-the-minute operational agility is just as visible in non-IT sectors. CEO Don Shilton used these methods to integrate more efficient practices across all department at St. Mary’s General Hospital in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada:

“For three consecutive years, St. Mary’s General Hospital [has] been ranked one of the three safest hospitals in Canada. But six years ago, the system was much lower on the list as it grappled with an unusually high level of sentinel events such as patient falls. [Shilton] set his sights on eliminating those events altogether and achieved success by building a culture and instituting improvement processes that engaged frontline nurses in identifying and solving problems. In one unit, for example, falls dropped more than 80% in a year as nurses designed and implemented detailed standard work practices.”

If that example teaches us anything, it’s that change management has to be a real-time effort that continues to blossom over time, instead of trying to make huge sweeping changes all at once, without taking present or future concerns into consideration.


Develop A Flexible, Purposeful Change Management System That Aligns with Your Goals

In agile, being able to pivot and make changes to big organizational changes on the fly is key to long-term success, but so is the ability to do so with a consistent underlying purpose.

Your business’ change management process needs to be both flexible and purposeful if you’re looking to build a truly agile system.

In this sense, flexible means more than just welcoming shifts in your change management strategy (including different opinions, suggestions, and improvements that weren’t part of your original change management blueprint). It also hinges on the realization that any change management system can be different things to different people.

Software developers may have one set of needs, wants, and goals when it comes to the change process, while other team members will have a totally different list of targets. This is where organizational purpose comes in–it should use that flexibility to be inclusive but also unify all stakeholders and facilitate the delivery of an agile minimum viable product.

The University of Virginia’s (UVA) recent organizational transformation is a great example of how both qualities play off of one another. As 18-year UVA employee Mary Brackett pointed out, rigid, almost dictatorial change management practices were taking its toll on employees:

“We were witnessing a growing sense of change fatigue across the university because teams were spinning up projects and not in coordination with one another. In addition, projects weren’t achieving intended results because among other things, we weren’t taking a close enough look at how changes would impact people’s jobs.”

By taking an integrated, iterative approach to their change management process, UVA was able to hit their performance and efficiency goals, all while being better prepared to thrive in a shifting institutional environment.

Under the circumstances, there may not be time to develop a huge communications aspect for your change management process, nor a scenario where you can appease every single stakeholder. It’s best to identify a course of action that has a singular, results-driven purpose while also maintaining the flexibility to change any details of that plan as needed.


Optimize How, When and Why You Use Your Resources For Greater Efficiency

When it comes to change management, it's often not just the tools you use that need updating–it's the way in which they're used that makes all the difference going forward.

In addition to your overall change management strategy, there should also be a purpose behind how, when, and why your resources are utilized.

In this instance, resources encapsulates more than just hardware, like computers and servers, and software. Physical office environments, employees, communication tools, project collaboration tools and more become major factors of how successfully (or not) your change management journey will play out.

The first step in optimizing your organization’s resource usage is to avoid an environment that is completely or even partially siloed. In the 2017 Project and Portfolio Management Landscape report, nearly half of participants admitted that their companies were stuck in this rut, leading to overcommitting on employee bandwidth, deadlines, and so on.

An emphasis on transparency and collaboration extends to even the most technical aspects of a project. You need to think about how assets link to one another, and how those dependencies serve the greater good of your change management plan. Bloated or unnecessary links in that chain should be reworked or, in some cases, cut completely.

Nowhere was the benefit of resource optimization more apparent than when GM reimagined their company and public image at the turn of the millennium. With declining sales and fiercer competition in the automotive marketplace, GM was in a bad spot leading up to the financial crash of 2008. By early 2009, they were facing financial ruin.

By addressing important resource-related issues, the automaker was able to cut redundant costs significantly while simultaneously making a huge effort to tear down the silos that had halted the company’s productivity. In recent years, their public perception and bottom line have made a huge comeback, reflected in a new high for their share prices ($43) in 2017.

To learn more about how organization can prioritize and optimize how resources are used and upgraded through Insight’s asset structure construction functionality, visit our website.


Monitor and Refine Your Change Management Solution Over Time

Once you get the change management ball rolling within your organization, the journey to a fully-realized digital transformation isn't over. In fact, it's really just your first step.

Arguably the most important part of an agile change management process is the ability to accurately monitor one’s progress and implement any necessary refinements over time.

Implementing a robust, flexible change management strategy is only part of the battle. Once that’s done, in the immortal words of the Carpenters, you’ve only just begun.

Adherence to the agile method should streamline the nuts and bolts of integrating continuous, incremental improvements. Those frequent updates need to be prioritized over one large organizational overhaul that isn’t touched or analyzed after the fact.

The metrics used to measure your business’ change management success (or lack thereof) will vary depending on your organization’s unique set of needs and goals. That said, the use of real-time reporting is essential to unearth detailed insights about your company’s performance and, in an iterative fashion, make meaningful change.


Use Communication, Collaboration to Be a Change Management Standout

Lots of businesses around the world fail to implement their change management processes effectively and fall behind when it comes to competing in their industry. Don't become a statistic–become a success story.

According to Gartner, the average organization has gone through five enterprise changes in the past three years, with 50% of those polled categorizing their change management performance as a failure. Those company overhauls also resulted in the average employee’s productivity decreasing by 5%.

With the number of changes felt by businesses expected to increase into the next decade, a well-thought out change management strategy, one that places as much importance on transparency, communication and collaboration as it does the technical assets at its disposal, will help keep you aligned with your most important goals.

Remember: As with any other agile process, flexibility is key–however, any pivots or changes to your company’s operations and ideals must be rooted in a common underlying purpose. Without that direction, any change management journey is bound to wash up on a barren, deserted island, instead of sailing smoothly to the promised land.

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Originally published Jun 11, 2019 9:00:00 AM