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Change management in an agile project management context

Organizations that adopt the Agile project management methodology know that it supports frequent reprioritization while stepping up the pace of delivery.1 As such, it can have an impact on change managers’ strategy and plans. So let’s take a step back and look at some of the things we need to consider when adapting change management to such projects.

agile change management

How can change management benefit in a context of Agile project management?

It is important to remember that the pace of change is faster in an Agile project management context than for projects managed in waterfall mode.

A project managed in Agile mode gives rise to early wins, and all the stakeholders affected will see the impact of those wins in the form of changes introduced early in the project. The resulting ripple effect eventually leads the entire organization to embrace change. Be prepared to hear positive comments, like “You can feel things changing, finally!” or “People are talking to each other now”.

Even though changes that are frequent tend to be smaller than during a long development followed by a larger deployment, it can sometimes feel like there are too many changes. In Agile mode, not a week goes by without the arrival of a release or an activity related to one of the many changes that will be introduced during the project.

Given these multiple changes, combined with the fact that they are incremental in nature and limited in scope, we need to think about adjusting change management so that it is better positioned to support stakeholders and the organization affected.

Here are some ideas to consider:

1) Look at the big picture: It can be beneficial, if not essential, to create an overall plan for the series of changes in order to visualize all the communications and change management activities to be experienced by each group of stakeholders. This planning is necessary to ensure that the planned activities can be easily combined with the other change management activities scheduled.

2) Stick to the basics: Change adoption models recommend a certain lead time to prepare people for the upcoming change. In agile mode, it is much better to shorten the lead time and focus on the basics: why the change, how it will affect you, and when. Engage stakeholders only once it is truly necessary.

Change management checklist for agile project management contexts

  1. Plan the schedule of change management events but be prepared for multiple iterations, improvements and amendments.
  2. Multiply the opportunities and tools for communicating key messages while limiting the level of detail and staying very close to the “roll-out'” date. Don’t lose sight of the perception on the ground: the changes are many and frequent.
  3. Use informed, engaged and active executive sponsor(s) who can lay the groundwork while a change is being developed.
  4. Don’t hesitate to include change management deliverables in sprint planning. That will ensure the presence of key individuals on the project (subject-matter experts, decision-makers, etc.) who could also be used as resources elsewhere on the project.
  5. Educate/train the project team on change management. The more the project team understands change management, the more change managers will be included in the right events within each sprint.

It is fair to say that the effort of planning and adapting the change management approach to align with the agile methodology will allow the change managers to adapt more easily to the pace of the project, with its frequent, successive iterations and deployments.

When you analyse your change management plan for an agile project, how could you improve it so that it fits even better with the agile methodology?

Mona-Lisa Shenouda

Senior Change management consultant



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