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Organizational Change Management in an Agile Environment

Table of Contents

What is Organizational Change Management (OCM)?

Organizational Change Management (OCM) focuses on the people side of change. It is the process of helping people let go of existing behaviors and attitudes and move towards and establishing new behaviors and attitudes that achieve and sustain desired business outcomes. It is a framework for managing the impact of new business processes, new solutions, changes in organizational structures, or cultural changes on the people who work within the organization. OCM is needed any time we ask people to change how they do their work, their working relationships, the organizational structure in which they work, key assumptions they hold, and how they manage their time.

Whose Job is it Anyway?

It is often thought that organizational change management is used only by organizational change managers on large, strategic projects. Because there are so few change managers, most of the other projects do without a change manager. Yet, every time we work on a new project, that project introduces change in the organization. I submit the premise that we all must be change leaders. If we are impacting our stakeholders by the new or updated software or a new or updated process, we have created change in their lives, often uninvited and unasked for by the stakeholder.

Bringing an Agile Perspective to OCM

Agile focuses on embracing and adapting to change. Although the Agile Manifesto was designed for software development, of these concepts should also be key elements in organizational change management, including the focus on individuals and interactions of people over processes and tools, the focus of customer collaboration over contract negotiation and responding to change rather than following a plan.                                                            

Organizational Change Management in an Agile Environment

Further, the Three Pillars of Empiricism from the Scrum Framework can also be applied to any organizational change management effort. For example, exchange “project” for “organizational change” and here is how the Pillars of Empiricism would read:

  • Transparency: All aspects of organizational change are visible and transparent to the team and all stakeholders.
  • Inspection: Organizational change processes and outcomes are inspected regularly to identify problems and inconsistencies that may compromise change outcomes.
  • Adaptation: Inspection and identification of organizational change issues enable the team to adjust organizational change performance and align change outcomes with stakeholder expectations.

Melanie Franklin, the author of Agile Change Management, does a nice job taking these Agile principles and summarizing them into five simple rules or guiding principles for managing change, ensuring the change management evolves to meet the business need.

  1. Recognize that there is a deadline for making the change and respect it. As with Agile, the change has a deadline and the time allowed should be divided into iterations to achieve business value as early as possible.  
  2. Allow the details of the change to evolve. Agile relies on transparency, inspection, and adaption. Therefore, change management efforts should evolve as we know more through frequent feedback from stakeholders.
  3. Ensure the change meets a business need. As with any project, if the change does not meet a business need, as project professionals we must ask the question – why are we doing it? Having changes that are not needed or not adopted is a waste of money.
  4. Work collaboratively across a wide spectrum of interested parties. A change often impacts a multitude of stakeholders directly or indirectly. Make sure you understand all those who are impacted by the change and work closely with them.  
  5. Balance time and resources across all phases of the change. Make sure that there is sufficient resources to work on the change, as well as sufficient support and attention paid to the change.

Eight Tips to Create a more Agile OCM Effort

  1. Create an organizational change management plan that is lean, flexible, and realizes benefits frequently and early in the process.
  2. Use an incremental approach for OCM planning of processes, activities, and information needed to manage a change initiative.
  3. Identify and prioritize change activities according to business value.
  4. Understand yourself and your own personal biases toward the change.
  5. Create a supportive environment that encourages people to participate and to accept the change.
  6. Continually manage stakeholder relationships, engaging them with empathy and trust.
  7. Use checklists, questionnaires, and models that can be easily reused, yet customized to any change initiative.
  8. Develop incremental strategies for building stakeholder resilience and motivation, while managing and mitigating resistance to the change.

Best wishes on your next organizational change effort!

For more information on Agile Change Management, go to www.watermarklearning.com under Agile Change Agent, or check out Melanie Franklin’s book, Agile Change Management: A Practical Framework for Successful Change Planning and Implementation.

Susan Heidorn, Ed.D., PMP, CBAP, HSDP, CSM, BRMP

Dr. Susan Heidorn, PMP, CBAP, HSDP, CSM, BRMP is the Director of Business Solutions for Watermark Learning in Minneapolis. Susan is an experienced consultant, facilitator, speaker, and trainer, with over 25 years of business experience. Susan directs programs in business analysis, business relationship management, and leadership, including developing and delivering courses and providing consulting. She has been a speaker at a number of IIBA® and PMI® conferences as well as local and regional organizations, boards, and private clients. She is a lifelong learner whose passion it is to guide people into achieving excellence in their personal and professional lives and works on creating positive impacts to the organization.