Kabir was frustrated. He had been appointed an Agile Coach and had looked forward to his role with great enthusiasm. It was now 6 months hence, and he was feeling lost. The organization – which was a strong, no-nonsense, get things done organisation – had little patience with the ceremonies that he had introduced, team leaders were parallels running conversations with account managers on future-negotiations, retrospectives were poorly attended, and teams preferred to not speak-up even when everyone was there. He knew what was broken, but he didn’t know who could fix it.

Agile, Lean, Six Sigma, Quality Focus, 5s, have been around for quite sometime now. Why do organizations take time to realize benefits from them? Ironically, it is because the organizations get into execution mode too fast.

Prosci describes the move into Agile, for example, as a twinned process.

  1. A movement to Agile (from waterfall)
  2. Practicing iterative improvement in agile projects.

Prosci conducted research in late-2016 with change practitioners who had agile transformation to derive insights on the intersection between the disciplines.

Study participants identified five common obstacles when working to bring change management into a project using Agile iterative development processes:

  • Lack of understanding of and appreciation for change management
  • Organizational resistance to Agile
  • High volume of incremental change
  • Increased pace
  • Middle manager resistance

In India, many agile practitioners we speak with describe the second item above (Organizational resistance to Agile) as the factor most frequently encountered. Additionally , lack of Sponsorship to bring the organisation into Agile (or treating it as implicit direction instead of a change that needs to be managed) is often called out as a key issue.

What does this mean to Kabir, and to us?

Wave 1: Organizations need to manage the movement into Agile as a concerted change that needs sponsorship, structured approach, strong communication, and buy-in from employees. This would be treated as a mindset change in the part of Leadership (or/and the organizations culture) towards adopting the mindset across its functions. Definitely, a journey.

Wave 2: In parallel, projects could start the adoption of agile practices as change management gets applied within a project – and waterfall procedures/thinking get shifted into Agile. When Wave 1 is not addressed and project work begins “in an Agile framework” issues arise.

In Prosci’s view, Agile is continuing to grow as a new way to tackle initiatives by breaking them down into iterative segments. Its application is extending past software and IT projects to include non-IT projects as well. Within a project using Agile, change management can support the adoption and usage required for true results to be achieved.
We see many examples of integrating Prosci Change Management methodology into Agile adoption. More important, Prosci offers a specific workshop that aids Agile practitioners apply best practices of Prosci change management into their work.

Hope that helps, Kabir!