TaJuana Antwine professional photo

TaJuana Antwine

Director, Consulting Expert

When we think of agile transformation, we typically think of creating functional roles and teams. Still, we often overlook the critical role of change management in creating an agile culture as part of the transformation. Agile transformations are much less likely to be sustainable without a culture that supports the tools and teams we put in place.

Change management is a skill and a practice. Experienced change management practitioners come with unique skills that complement the agile coach in an agile transformation. Having experience as both an agile coach and a change management practitioner, I’d like to share my perspective on how change managers and agile coaches can work together to help create an agile culture within an organization.

Prosci defines change management as “the application of a structured process and set of tools for leading the people side of change to achieve a desired outcome.” Change managers help organizations understand where they are and where they’re going, create a plan to get there, and manage the transition to the future state. They also prepare users for upcoming changes by creating a sense of ownership. Managing the people side of change provides insurance for return on investment for digital and organizational transformations. Most importantly, change management is much more than just training and communications. It is a discipline that requires change management professionals with both knowledge and experience to be successful.

Agile and change management – a common bond

For organizations transitioning from a waterfall to an agile methodology, a shift in mindset and behavior is crucial to the transformation. Change management tools are created to identify, facilitate, and sustain this shift. Additionally, change management works in the same fashion as agile efforts, creating flexibility for adjustment to plans as more information regarding the upcoming change and the impacted stakeholders is gathered. This makes the change manager an ideal fit for agile teams.

Leadership is vital to successful transformation

Before a shift in culture can be undertaken with the broader organization, change managers should work with the leadership team to help them tackle their transition. It is critical for the business owner to be a visible and active participant in the transformation, communicating their support for the project and helping to identify project champions and early adopters. The broader leadership team, including middle managers and supervisors, also has an important role to play by1:

  • Building awareness and reinforcing the change
  • Articulating the benefits of the change to their team
  • Facilitating communications between their team and the project/program team, including sharing questions, positive feedback, areas of concern, and potential sources of resistance
  • Providing coaching and reinforcing expected behaviors
  • Helping manage resistance by implementing appropriate rewards and consequences for expected behaviors

Planning and measurement tools

Change managers have several tools that can be used to plan for agile transformation, including:

  • Cultural assessment: An analysis of the organization’s current assumptions, beliefs, norms, and values that can help the team understand what levers can be used for successful implementation
  • Organizational readiness assessment: An evaluation of whether the organization is ready for a transformation based on several factors, including the current number of changes being implemented and the success of previous change programs
  • Change impact assessment: Understanding the impact of the proposed changes on individuals and teams
  • Communication and engagement plan: Planning both formal and informal communications, ranging from official program communications to engaging teams and individual team members in conversations about the transformation
  • Training plan: Identifying which groups need what training on agile concepts in addition to any applicable technical training
  • Resistance management plan: Anticipating and planning for resistance to change

Measuring success

In addition to the typical measurements that the change management team would use (e.g., speed of adoption, proficiency, utilization), the agile coach can support transformation by measuring practices and processes unique to agile. Team roles, execution, and ceremonies are expected in most implementations, but mindsets, practices, and values should also be considered. For example, suppose the leadership team is transitioning from waterfall to agile. In that case, the concepts of failing fast and pushing responsibility down to the agile team may be difficult for them to demonstrate. By defining and measuring these mindsets, practices, and values, the coach can provide feedback to both the agile team and leadership team that will help support the transformation.

Integrating change management into agile transformation ensures an organization has the tools, mindset and behaviors to create a sustainable agile culture to support future innovation and growth.

Looking for a team to support your technical and cultural needs for agile transformation and maturity? We can help! CGI has consultants skilled and experienced in agile and change management assessment, transformation, and growth. Contact us to understand how we can create a solution to meet the unique needs of your organization. Learn more here.

1 Adapted from Prosci critical activities for sponsors, roles for people managers during change

About this author

TaJuana Antwine professional photo

TaJuana Antwine

Director, Consulting Expert

TaJuana Antwine is a transformation management leader at CGI experienced in delivering high-quality results through project teams. TaJuana develops and manages project and change management strategies and supporting tools. She is recognized for the ability to lead diverse global teams and implement change that drives ...