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Tips for Successful Change Management in an Agile Environment

Any organization that has adopted the Agile Methodology goes through a series of transformations to become a fully functional Agile organization. To complete the transition from a traditional organization to an Agile company, the company not only has to focus on the technological side but also should focus on its management of the members of the organization. It is the organizational members that make up a company, hence, it becomes an integral part to take care of the changes that people in the company face and help and guide them through the process of change. Likewise, if a new automation process is adopted by the company, it is of no use if the people of the organization do not use it. Hence, the domain of Agile transformation that deals with the people side of the organizational transformation is termed as Change Management. It is considered as a crucial link between the new technology and the profits that the organization will gain when the people use the technology.

What is Change Management?

Change Management could be defined as the set of processes, tools, activities, and methods that would take an organization from its current state to the state which it desires to achieve. The people in the organization can see the gains and benefits after the implementation of the tools of Change Management and make them prepare for further changes in the company. Change Management is more of practices, rigors, and disciplines that are used to address human perspectives in organizational changes. Sustainable behavioral changes in the members of the organization are one of the main objectives of Change Management. Many people look at the new technology, new documents, meetings, mass email communications, training sessions, etc. introduced in the organization as Change Management. However, one has to understand that these things are not changing management, but they are the components of Change Management. 

Stages of Organizational Change

Any organization change goes through several changes. They are staged in the following manner:

  • Initiation: This is the point of start of any change that could enhance the productivity of the business. In this stage, the members of the organization feel that something is missing and there are chances for the organization to improve and become better. 
  • Investigation: In this stage, people start to analyze options and start to create a vision or a “to-be picture” of the organization. People also start to assess the company’s position to accept any changes.
  • Intention: Planning and Strategizing take place in this stage where the vision planned should include a change in the organization that should be visually seen.
  • Introduction: In this stage, the change is announced to the people. Hence, this stage requires the leaders of the organization to answer all the questions of the employees, and provide better clarity to them. The leaders are supposed to state the work expectations of the employee clearly and there are no shortcuts possible to complete this stage.
  • Implementation: The process, methods, and tools to support the organization are introduced in this stage. People’s behaviors should be monitored and the behaviors that harm the company should be eliminated. 
  • Integration: In this stage, the company implements all the tools, processes, and methods successfully and establishes an overall Agile culture. 

Six Tips for Successful Change Management in an Agile Environment

Implementing Change Management is a task that has to be done with the collaboration of all the leaders of the organization with the full support of the company’s members. Many companies only focus on the technological side of the changes in the organization and fail to look at people’s behaviors and actions. These organizations are not successful in the long run in their operations and may encounter many losses. Hence, it is very important to look at certain aspects of Change Management in the initial stages and implement a few of the tips that would help the companies build successful Change Management in an Agile environment.

Approaching Change Management Differently

Change Management in traditional Methodologies would employ a linear and a step-by-step process. The company decides the purpose of change and the key stakeholders of the organization are mapped and further communication plans are developed. With this the activities are planned and scheduled, the solutions are created and deployed systematically, which follows the measurement of the impact. However, in Agile, this sequential approach is not suitable as it is not dynamic enough. An Agile Sprint can be completed and the minimum viable product could be put in live-action and tested for results till the first two steps of the traditional methodology could be completed. From the perspective of Agile Methodology, the processes employed by the traditional methodology are either too slow, complicated or too late. 

This implies the Change Management for Agile organizations must be employed differently. The approaches taken into considerations should be shifted to a real-time, fit-to-purpose approach that meshes with Agile ways of thinking. And the approaches that slow down the employees’ productivity by taking days to develop must be omitted. One has to understand that Agile is still a developing concept, and there is a fluctuating amount of variability among organizations in techniques used to adopt Agile processes and ways of working. 

Implementing a Real-Time Agile Framework to Boost Productivity

Companies usually assume that once a new technology or a method is implemented, they have to give it more time and wait for the results to be seen. However, in this age of fast technology, companies do not have time to wait and let people adjust to management. Hence, before executing the strategy of Change Management, one must always keep the timelines and software processes in mind as it would impact the performance of the IT staff. The reason to focus on the IT department is to deliver continuously, and iterative improvement of changes taken place in the company from the time a new technology has arrived. Focusing on the IT department also means that the development is updated with new methods and techniques, and the company can move faster with its organizational vision and mission.

Few Methods of implementing this in the company is by:

  • Including the new changes in proper documentation during the times when software platforms are being created. This helps developers avoid more work after the Quality Analysis is done.
  • Collaboration with the Product Owners, Developers, and UX designers such that all the members have established guidelines for built-in prompts or initiative functionalities which would keep the transitions smooth for clients and other team members.
  • Keeping the communication and feedback channels open all the time such that all the stakeholders of the project have the most updated information in their hands.

Change Management should not be a concept that is in theory but not in practice. It has to be an effort that is real-time that continues to grow with time. One should not aim to make bigger changes at once. They have to take the future or present concerns in mind while making changes. Simple Agile practices and real-time effort by the members of the organization have a major role to play in boosting the productivity of Change Management.

Developing a Purposeful and Flexible System of Change Management which is in line with the Goals of the Organization

Agile organizations have to understand that flexibility and purpose are assets for building a truly Agile system. The ability to make changes in a big organization is key for any success which would last long. Here flexibility implies introducing shifts in the Change Management strategy which includes different suggestions, opinions, and better improvements that may not be a part of the initial blueprint of the Change Management strategy. The term flexibility could also mean different things for different members of the organization. Developers could have a specific type of wants, goals, or needs concerning the change process, however other members such as testers may have different target lists. Here is where the “purpose of the organization” comes in. The leaders of the organizations have to design the Change Management such that it is flexible for all the members and also unify the needs of every stakeholder and deliver an Agile MVP.

Organizations have to take an integrated and iterative approach to the strategy of Change Management to hit their efficiency and performance goals. This should be done while they are being prepared to sustain in an environment that is shifting. There may be many circumstances where there is no time to create a broader communication aspect for the Change Management process and also scenarios where every stakeholder cannot be appeased. In this case, it is best to discover a specific course of action, and results-driven purpose along with the flexibility to change.

Plan and Organize Why, How, and When the resources of the organization can be used for better efficiency

It is not only the tools that have to be focused in the Change Management process, it is the methods and techniques that these tools are used by the employees that would make a difference to the organization. There should be a well-defined purpose behind the when, how, and why the resources of the company are utilized. Resources do not only refer to hardware such as computers and software. It is also the office environments, communication tools, employees, tools for project collaboration, and many other factors that define how the organization becomes successful (or not) and how the Change Management strategy would result in.

The initial step to implement this strategy is to have clear transparency of the work being done to all the members of the project. An environment that is isolated partially or completely should be avoided as it would lead to a rut where employees are non-motivated, uninformed, and over pressured. Collaboration along with transparency extends to almost all of the technical aspects of the project as well. When all the departments are well communicated and linked, they lead to the betterment of the company. Unnecessary links or bloated links must be reworked or cut completely. 

Monitoring and Refining the Solution of Change Management with time

After the Change Management is set up in the organization, the company does not complete its digital transformation. The crucial part of the process is to monitor accurately the implementation and progress of the necessary refinements with respect to time. A flexible and robust management strategy will initiate the process of transformation in the organization. Using Agile methods, the members of the organization should integrate continuous and incremental improvements. These updates by the employees should be held more important than the huge organizational overhaul. The needs and goals of the organization would determine the type of metrics needed to measure the success of the business’ Change Management. Using the method of reporting in real-time, the leaders of the organization could understand the details of the company’s performance and understand the ways to make an iterative and meaningful change in the organization.

Communicating with Developers & Testers and handling changes efficiently

Developers and Testers are an integral part of the Change Management process as they are the ones who have to communicate and collaborate with the management. The leaders of the organization should share any design changes to the Development Team, and schedule them for an iteration. When major changes are happening in the organization, people often skip this step. This would imply that the changes needed in the product are not communicated to the developers and is simply not done. Hence, take time to talk to the Developers and discuss with them before promising any features as the customers may not be happy when the feature promised is not delivered. Similarly, whenever the details of the features and stories are being explained to the Developers, be sure to include the Testers and the QA team. One should not always assume that the Developers would update the story information. This way the Testers can create more effective tests and which would lead to better coverage. Hence, to manage the new changes one has to communicate and manage efficiently.

Conclusion

Implementing Change Management in an Agile environment would be one of the challenging tasks during an Agile transformation. However, one has to understand the main problems the companies would face during the transformation. Approaching Change Management differently, implementing real-time to boost the Agile productivity, planning, and organizing the resources of the organization are a few of the factors that could make a difference in the Change Management process. One has to dig deeper into these factors and understand how exactly the above-given factors could be tackled. Change Management should be explained to all the members of the organization and the internal factors that hinder the progress of Agile transformation should be countered. Thoroughly following these tips would surely ensure successful Change Management in an Agile environment. 

References

https://blog.hrps.org/blogpost/How-to-Adapt-Change-Management-to-an-Agile-Approach
https://www.devteam.space/blog/5-ways-agile-can-help-with-change-management/
https://blog.changefirst.com/how-to-incorporate-change-management-into-agile-projects
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