Making the most of Prosci’s Five Levers in Agile.

14 April 2020

Here is everything you need to know to work your way around sprints and releases.

author picture Article written by Vincent Piedboeuf

Welcome back to our comprehensive series on Agile and CM! As we dig deeper into the practical aspects of integrating Change Management and Agile, now is the time to review the entire host of CM plans required to get the ball rolling. Here is everything you need to know to work your way around sprints and releases. 

Back to the basics: five levers of CM and ADKAR.

With PROSCI’s five levers, the process of change is given flesh and bones. A robust sponsorship roadmap is critical to enable leaders to be the face and voice of change. A carefully crafted communication plan also ensures that the message is sent at the right time to the right people through the right channel. Further down the road, empowering managers and frontline employees through the transition will call for a proper coaching plan. Equally important is the training plan designed to help people develop the skillsets needed to deploy and utilise the change. Resistance is inherent to change but cannot be left unchecked. Having a resistance management plan – the fifth lever – is thus pretty much a no-brainer.

You’ll need to have these plans ready upfront to complete each step of the ADKAR sequence. Sponsorship, communications and coaching are key to raise Awareness and ignite the process. When it comes to creating Desire, resistance management is thrown into the mix, along with sponsorship and coaching. More coaching and a solid training plan will help build Knowledge and Ability. And if you have made it through the process and now need to Reinforce the change, congratulations, you clearly made clever use of the right levers!

Reordering your plans in Agile?

Again, adjusting to Agile means splitting activities into two sections or, better said, levels: project and releases. Sponsorship is organically connected to the project level. Indeed, the overall purpose is to drive engagement and help people make the change their own. Applying common sense, communication activities should be conducted at both levels. Coaching and training, on the other hand, are driven by releases, closely mirroring sprint practices and delivered just in time. Reinforcement efforts should take place at both levels in order to ensure deep-seated change and a smooth progression across releases.  


Now, what about “timing”? In the traditional waterfall method, all plans unfold and are being kicked off earlier or later during the lifecycle of the project, as shown in the graph below. In Agile, however, dynamics play out at two levels. Sponsorship, communication and resistance management plan are designed at the project level, coming to life sprint after sprint, release after release. Each release, in turn, calls for specific and targeted training, coaching, communication and resistance management plans. Parallel operation and sub-cycles are Agile’s distinguishing features.



What to adapt?

In the light of Agile’s specific challenges, each lever requires the following set of adjustments:  

  • Sponsorship: Showing up at the beginning and at the end of the project… and be done? This is not an option for sponsors. Much less in Agile because of its iterative nature and inner cycles. Also, sponsors should adopt and actively demonstrate the Agile mindset. Only if they lead by example will sponsors be able to take the organisation along.
  • Communication: There is an underlying difficulty there, and it is to cause saturation and fatigue among collaborators. Done wrong, unfocused and too often, communication efforts can amplify the stress generated by the accelerated pace of change(s). Accuracy is key.
  • Coaching: Conventional wisdom holds that team leaders are key players in times of change. This is even more true in Agile where each release can heavily impact collaborators, making the role of team leaders even more decisive. That means more efforts are needed to keep them on board across iterations and to provide the necessary resources. It is certainly not enough to train Scrum Masters and Product Owners on Agile and expect team leaders to adapt and “pull off their magic”. Operating in Agile is considerably harder for them, something that should be acknowledged and acted upon as fast as possible. Keeping them connected at all times and providing extra support is the answer.
  • Training: If operating in Agile generally requires more work upfront, training is a domain that certainly becomes more demanding. Training activities and planning should be divided into sections that match the needs of each release. Responsiveness is crucial to move from one release to another, with the right knowledge delivered on time.
  • Resistance Management: The advent of Agile has brought with it many myths and misconceptions. Managing resistance includes identifying incorrect beliefs, addressing them and dealing with naysayers. Remember that the faster pace of Agile means no one can be left behind. Resistant people may “ground” or paralyse everyone else but if engaged more efficiently, they can also help accelerate progress.

In our next and last instalment on Agile and CM, we’ll look into CM roles. The whole series will soon be fully accessible on our blog. Feel free to take a look and explore our extensive library of resources on CM!

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