Evans Incorporated’s Richard Hudson, director of client delivery, weighs in and offers perspective on the importance of preparing your organization for the transformative, ongoing change essential to any agile program.
All Agile methodologies include integrated practices and processes that manage evolving requirements to efficiently develop a continuous stream of new software capabilities. However, what Agile does not address are changes related to how the organization impacted is supposed to accommodate the constant stream of change the new capabilities enable.
An initial challenge of agile is the high level of commitment any organization requesting the changes must dedicate. Many authors have written on this topic, as it is critical to have a high level of engagement from the user community, but it is minimal when considered against the full cohort of people actually impacted by the implemented changes. The development team comprises possibly tens of people, and they are paired with an equivalent number of customer representatives. A significant commitment of customer representatives is needed when the developers need the best and the most innovative from the business community. But the impact to the full business community may involve thousands of staff.
More than 70 percent of organizations that dedicate a change team to support transformational change place the unit within the project management organization; as shown in Figure 1:
Figure 1 – Traditional Placement of Change Team
This placement has advantages from the perspective of ensuring change is aligned with the project, building an integrated team and simplifying communication. But in the agile world, progress of development is so accelerated that these issues pale in comparison to the broader issue of preparing the impacted organization for sustained change.
In Figure 1, the project/program manager responsible for the overall implementation filters the change team’s reports. That project manager is primarily motivated to deliver a solution that meets the requirements, on time and within budget. If the organization has problems motivating the workforce to use the solution, that is a problem for someone else.
In agile development, it is far more important for the change specialists to concentrate on building change capacity in the organizations most impacted by the implementation of the new business model. In this situation, the change team must be integrated with the people most impacted by the change. In such situations, the ability of the change team to have full and open access to the sponsors of the change is integral to program success (see Figure 2).
Figure 2 – Placement of Change Team for Agile Development
The advantage of this model is that the change team has direct access to sponsors and can provide objectivity unfiltered by the bias of the project team. It is also the case that the change team has an enterprise view of change. It is well known that many change initiatives fail because an organization launches too much change. Individuals that can probably accommodate a single change, can’t deal with multiple changes happening at the same time. In agile development, the chance of multiple, simultaneous change is likely. Even if there is no simultaneous change, by definition, the organization is subject to continuous change which results in the same symptoms as too much change – change fatigue.
By viewing things from the perspective of those most impacted, the change team can better define tactics to address individual concerns and get support from the sponsors. They are also in a much better position to facilitate volunteerism or even holocracy. But that is a subject for another blog.
How does your organization prepare for agile change? Feel free to leave your insights and ideas in the comment section!