“How to” integrate CM and Agile: adjusting the approach.

24 February 2020

CM and Agile Series III

author picture Article written by Vincent PIEDBOEUF

Change Management and Agile are grounded in symmetrical principles and deliver added value where they intersect. But integrating CM seamlessly in an Agile environment comes with some challenges as well. Our last post hashed out the main obstacles … and highlighted the payoff. It is now time to address practical issues. How should you adapt? What should you do differently? How does Agile affect the Change Management approach and the dialog between CM and PM? Without further ado, here are some guidelines, ranging from the broad to the specific.


…develop an iterative approach to Change Management. In other words, focus on the core methodology and key components, leaving room for adaptations. Make sure to execute on activities that deliver maximum value, and put responsiveness first. You might want to redefine success metrics as you go and test new approaches (more on this below).

Of course, operating in an Agile framework calls for some changes in terms of CM implementation or plans. First of all, it is crucial to educate the whole organisation on Agile beforehand: not exclusively the Product Owner, not only your Scrum Master or the project team and/or the experts… but the entire staff! Remember that leading the people towards Agile is only half the battle. You need to clearly identify roles and responsibilities in order to promote ownership and avoid straining relationships. Also, we cannot stress enough the importance of understanding how Agile impacts decision-making and scheduling processes. Everyone involved, starting with sponsors, must get comfortable with ambiguity (except for roles), speed, trade-offs and cycle times.

When it comes to driving engagement, the sooner the better. This is true not just for the project team, which should step forward earlier on and more frequently, but also for sponsors. Sponsors are expected to get involved every step of the way and this might include “being part of the chartering process, sprint planning and steering committee”. Note that PROSCI’s research has found that sponsors are often surprised by the amount of commitment and visibility required, hence the importance of training sponsors on their role and overall Agile methodology[1].


Change Management Approach

The emphasis is usually placed on alignment with releases and on variations induced by sprints, as suggested in the table below. However, it is equally important to figure out and analyse when and where releases will have a tangible impact on people. A thorough understanding of the situation at the most granular levels will enable Change Managers to support not only the Agile team and impacted collaborators, but also managers and directors directly affected by a given release.



CM Approach



Do Differently

1. The Agile process was incompatible with structured approaches

1. Aligned with functionality deliverable date

1. Increase Agile training

2. Required change managers to work faster

2. Varied based on sprints

2. Begin earlier

3. Left little additional time to deploy change management

3. Reevaluated constantly

3. Spend less time focusing on small details



4. Be more selective in what change management activitieswere employed

  Less details in the structure at first.  Create the high level structure and save the details to be filled in as you execute and learn from experiences.


CM and PM integration.

Optimising communication efforts and collaboration work between CM and PM teams is key. Here again, early integration is a major contributor to success (see table below). The good news is that Agile is by design strongly connected to final users. Because of the principles that govern the method, namely fast deployment and feedback loops, users are constantly co-defining or co-constructing developments. In that sense, the project team is organically connected with those who are impacted by the change.

What should be clearly defined, though, are the intentions and plans on how to elevate collaboration and resource-sharing practices between change managers, the project team and the Agile team. For the CM team, it is important to learn how these groups operate so as to formulate the right solutions to drive adoption and utilisation … and help them integrate CM into their Agile projects.



Integrating CM and PM



Do Differently

1. Project team absent from Agile projects

1. Increasing communication between change management and project management teams

1. Integrate earlier

2. Project team did not see the value of change management

2. Collaborating more with project management team

2. Provide change management training  

3. Workload increased on Agile projects

3. Increasing autonomy with individual people



Now that we have identified and detailed all the required adaptations for an optimal Agile/CM integration, we will move on to the next step: implementing the ADKAR method “in” Agile. Our step by step guide is coming soon. Follow us to read our next posts!


[1] PROSCI (2017), Change Management and Agile.

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