Agile projects can improve change resilience

eft-change-resistance-toSome organizations are experiencing the challenge that while they will need to sustain a significant volume of transformational change to remain competitive or relevant, their existing culture does not have a change appetite.

How would you know if this might be a problem in your company?

A simple survey to a cross-section of your company asking the question “Is the pace of change you’ve experienced over the past year too fast?” might be one place to start.  So long as there was good justification and strategic alignment for the changes that were introduced over the time period, if the general feeling is still that there was still too much change then (pardon the pun!) something needs to change.

Taking a portfolio approach to the timing of changes is one way to address this concern – if there is too much convergence of impacts to a team at a given point in time, and then months where no changes hit them, it’s no wonder if they chafe at this feast or famine situation.  Alternately, if changes are made repeatedly or within a small space of time to the same value flow or business procedure through different projects, it can feel unplanned or chaotic.  Where there is flexibility in project schedule commitments, a portfolio manager should be able to balance business priorities with a steady rollout of changes (instead of a big bang) as well as the bundling of cross-project changes which will impact the same affected area.

Portfolio-wide change implementation consistency can help, but what can an individual project manager do to develop change “muscle memory” for staff?

Delivering projects using agile instead of waterfall lifecycles might be one place to start.  Here are a few of the benefits that this approach may provide.

  • Staff get used to experiencing change in smaller doses, more frequently – this is a good way to avoid the risks of “big bang” implementations.
  • Team members will begin to embrace change as an essential component of a healthy project instead of trying to avoid it at all costs after requirements have been defined.
  • Project sponsors and champions will get better at supporting change as they will have more opportunities to do so over a project’s lifetime.
  • Staff will experience the benefits of frequent change if their feedback is solicited and incorporated through refactoring into subsequent implementations within the lifetime of a single project.

In Dune, Frank Herbert wrote “Without change, something sleeps inside us, and seldom awakens. The sleeper must awaken.”  Delivering projects in an agile manner might be just the wakeup call your company’s culture needs!

Categories: Agile, Facilitating Organization Change, Project Management | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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