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An Agile Approach to Change Management

By Dr. Myles Bogner and David Elfanbaum  |  Posted 2011-02-04 Print this article Print

Organizations can leverage enterprise change management practices in conjunction with their agile development teams to foster IT delivery adoption.

Agile software development is designed to thrive within even the most dynamic business and technical environments. In fact, according to an article on the Web site of Martin Fowler, an agile industry leader, the name “agile” was chosen because its creators viewed “adaptiveness and response to change” as the most essential concept of the methodology.

All agile methodologies include integrated practices and processes that manage evolving requirements to efficiently develop a continuous stream of new software capabilities. However, agile does not address changes related to enterprise support of the agile process or tasks that fall outside the scope of the project work. These include how to:

·        effectively manage internal personnel so appropriate stakeholders are available throughout the project;

·        gather and prioritize the most important features desired by the organization throughout the development cycle;

·        adjust the notion of ongoing training in a continuous release environment;

·        ensure customer team members are informed by the full breadth of stakeholders required for enterprise acceptance;

·        secure timely approval of new technologies that a team would like to leverage; and

·        address stakeholder discomfort with cultural, business, social or other nontechnical changes related to software implementation.

Each of these challenges is compounded when organizations operate multiple agile projects simultaneously. Such unaddressed issues can cause an IT project to ultimately fail, even if it meets all project acceptance tests and is executed perfectly within the scope of the development team.

Enterprise change management provides a framework that addresses many of these missing factors. Here we will focus on how organizations can leverage ECM practices in conjunction with their agile development teams to foster IT delivery adoption.

Communicate a Vision of Change

In the book The Heart of Change, co-authors John  Kotter, the Konosuke Matsushita Professor of Leadership, Emeritus, at the Harvard Business School, and consultant Dan Cohen, view the core pattern associated with successful change as “see-feel-change.” To move stakeholders from negative thoughts and feelings, an ECM program must communicate a vision of the change that is compelling enough to not simply overcome negative preconceptions, but to motivate positive participation as well.

Some IT and project managers tend to treat people who will be affected by software initiatives as if they were Vulcans, not humans. Of course, most individuals are more like Kirk than they are like Spock: They don’t rationally evaluate information and form impressions based solely on logic. Instead of withholding judgment on an impending change—such as a new software initiative—people tend to make gut-level intuitive leaps that are often negative and resistant.

In Switch: How To Change Things When Change is Hard, authors Chip and Dan Heath use the metaphor of “Rider, Elephant and Path” to describe three primary areas that must be addressed in change management.

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