The ultimate Checklist to Agile for Change Managers.

03 March 2021

In Agile, Change Management looks and feels completely different to the traditional practices of CM.

author picture Article written by Morten Kamp Andersen

Change Managers, change in Agile starts with you!

In Agile, Change Management looks and feels completely different to the traditional practices of CM. You cannot afford to do things the way you normally would. Get ready to develop new skills and a brand-new mindset. Prepare to adjust to the frantic pace of Agile. But don’t worry, we know that this is right up your alley. And to help you fast track your efforts, here is the ultimate checklist of recommendations, based on PROSCI’s insights.   

Before you start, hear what other Change Managers have to say

There nothing like listening to old “veterans” to get things right from the start. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. So, let’s first take stock of the main challenges of adapting CM to Agile - four classics that encapsulate Change Managers’ experiences worldwide:

Know that CM has to become iterative, too. What distinguishes Agile from traditional waterfall methods is its iterative nature. Think sprints and quick incremental releases. It is only logical that CM become iterative, too.

Know that you will have to adjust your plans on the fly. That means no grand linear and rigid plan with a distant horizon. In Agile, “just in time” is the new perfect.

Know that things will have to be done and delivered at a faster pace. The need for speed is real. You might want to be more selective and go for the quick wins.

Know that it requires more work upfront. As counterintuitive as it seems, being ready to pivot anytime to meet people’s needs is hard work. Agile demands you carefully look into different scenarios to optimise your response and use of resources.

With that mind, let’s go through our ultimate checklist together.

The Ultimate Checklist for agile Change Managers

#1 Manage the move to Agile as a change. Do what needs to be done upstream. Agile is not a soft revolution. It requires a shift in culture and mindset. Getting comfortable with speed, failure and uncertainty is no small feat. Ask yourself whether people are Willing, Able and Ready to take up the challenge of Agile (WAR)? The answers will help you lay solid foundations for the change.   

#2 “Accept that you are part of the change” ... Didn’t we start the blog with that one? As a Change Manager, you have to walk your talk and “fix yourself” first. If you have a strong inclination for templates, formalisation, and standardisation, be ready to relinquish your old habits. In Agile, you must be more flexible, adaptable … and less formal in the way you engage employees.

#3 Help senior leaders be the voice and face of change. Driving holistic, high-impact change is only possible if senior leaders are active and visibly support both the initiative and Agile as an approach. Because they have to show up more often, Agile is more taxing on them. Your role? Help sponsors play their role.

#4 Get a seat at the Project Management table early on. That’s how you make sure that the people side of change keeps up with the technical side. Also, keep in mind that you might come up against a “meta-problem”: the lack of understanding and appreciation for Change Management. So, claim your seat at the PM table right away and, as the old saying goes, “get them started early”.

#5 Supercharge your efforts by leveraging CM and Agile aligned values. CM and Agile have a lot in common. The spotlight, in both cases, is on the people, not on processes or structures. Both Agile and CM also place special emphasis on making “users” (or impacted employees) part of the process itself to ensure full adoption of the product/solution. Try leveraging these matching values. You will quickly see how your team and its PM counterpart build upon each other, 10xing the results of Agile.


Agile Values

CM Values

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

Organisations don’t change, individuals do

Working software over comprehensive documentation

Without adoption and usage, we end up getting solutions without results

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

Individual change impacts are what need to be defined and managed

Responding to change over following a plan

Enabling successful individual change is the key to delivering organisational outcomes


#6 Be responsive, mirror Agile’s rhythm. When it comes to ensuring people have the Knowledge and Ability to operate the change, just-in-time support - in the form of training or coaching - is king. Think bite-sized, on-demand, sessions and modules.

#7 “Focus on material impact by release[1]. You probably won’t be able to do everything that is on the CM playbook. Nor should you. Understand the nature and impact of each release on the people… and address just that. Agile puts additional strain on the people. Managers are usually stretched thin, and therefore, less willing to take on coaching tasks. This, in turn, has ripple effects on frontline employees. That is a pain point you are expected to solve with extra support and resources, delivered at the right time (also see previous).

#8 Communicate in clear terms and beware of the risk of overload. The accelerated pace of Agile and the breakdown into small sprints means you’ll have to communicate more often. The downside? It can lead to saturation. Don’t kill your communication with unfocused messaging. Keep it simple, accurate, and spare people the stress of information overload.

#9 Double down on your efforts to manage resistance. You know that old foe. But prepare to fight a stronger version of it, guerrilla-style. Resistance can surface when initiating the move to Agile – which requires a cultural shift – and may intensify in the new environment, release upon release. The pace can be unsettling to many and keeping everyone on board across iterations can be much harder. Bring in reinforcement activities earlier to match the cadence of releases. Focus on progression and quick wins!

#10 Be creative, you are operating in a brand-new world. Empowering cross-functional teams is hard enough. But to make things worse, the world has changed, and we are still in the process of figuring out how to keep everyone connected and engaged in a hybrid workplace. Best practices are starting to emerge [insert NEXUM’s blog url]. However, you might still find yourself tiptoeing on the communication front. Make technology work for you, experiment and be creative, but never compromise on this one rule: keep communications simple and straight to the point.

To dig deeper into the intersection between Agile and CM, feel free to explore our extensive library of resources [url NEXUM] and check out our previous series!


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