The 5 roles of Change Management in Agile.

28 April 2020

Agile should be treated as a transformation in itself, one that adds an extra layer to the challenges attached to the change initiative.

author picture Article written by Vincent Piedboeuf

What better way to wrap up this series on CM and Agile than to talk about the roles that structure change. Leaders and senior executives, CM practitioners, project teams, managers and frontline employees … all have to join forces to make change a tangible reality, yielding long-lasting results. In Agile, these five roles do not lose any importance, nor do they get redistributed, but they need to be adjusted. Again, Agile should be treated as a transformation in itself, one that adds an extra layer to the challenges attached to the change initiative. This article will help you identify focus points and trouble spots.  
Sponsors: the voice of change and … of Agile.
You probably already know that, depending on how involved they are, sponsors can make or break the best initiative. Make sure that the ABC of sponsorship is taken good care of. In short, sponsors must (1) be Active throughout the project, (2) Build a coalition of peers to share a compelling and unambiguous message, and (3) Communicate frequently and directly with staff. In Agile, they must not only promote the change initiative per se but also Agile as an organisational system. Because of this double mission and accelerated pace inherent to Agile, sponsors must be more precise and efficient.
Change Practitioners: be ready to pivot. 
Those in charge of enabling the people side of change and of empowering other roles must be … change-ready. Because CM needs will vary depending on releases, they must be ready for a pivot of some sort at any time. Having a good grasp of how releases might impact the people is crucial. This prospective view will help CM managers navigate and optimise the process, leveraging the right tools at the right time. So, if you're a CM practitioner yourself, be prepared to respond and deliver on a just-in-time basis - training and coaching modules or sessions in particular.
Project team: a plea for more autonomy and more collaboration.
As they conceive and develop the solution, members of the project team have to address both the technical and human sides of change from the get-go. Driving adoption and utilisation requires that they also place the emphasis on the people. This tends to be (even) more challenging in an Agile environment, where what seems to matter the most is to string releases and “keep going”. Even though it may sound somewhat paradoxical, the project team must be granted more autonomy in an effort to increase efficiency, but it is equally important that they set more time apart to meet and collaborate with other groups when required. 
Managers: extra support for those in the middle.
The role of managers is so centric when it comes to cascading the change that PROSCI coined the acronym CLARC after a famous superhero. It certainly captures the particular importance and complexity of their mission. Managers are expected to be Communicators, Liaison officers, Advocates of the change, Resistance managers and Coaches for frontline employees … while simultaneously maintaining Business as Usual. Keeping them closely connected through face-to-face interactions during each sprint is thus key. To ensure that they stay on board, they must be provided with extra support, frequent updates and Agile-related Knowledge and Ability elements. On a general note, remember that operating in Agile is more taxing for managers than it is with traditional waterfall methods. 
Frontline employees: the power of “casual”. 
In Agile, there is no shortage of paradoxes. Here is another one. To ensure that collaborators embrace the change and do not develop or fuel existing resistance, you must maximise opportunities to get them engaged while adopting a more casual approach. We too often stick to fixed rules and evaluation protocols - call that the default mode - something that, in Agile, may even be counterproductive. In an operational framework made of cycles and characterized by speed, you must get in touch with frontline employees more often and also relinquish formal ways.
Agile professionals: the 6th role. 
On top of the five roles of CM, Agile practitioners are there to operationalise the iterative method and onboard everyone else. 
You now know how to effectively integrate CM and Agile. Our experts can provide you with further guidance on how to adjust the approach and any element relevant to PROSCI's tools and method. The complete series is now on our blog. Go check it out and follow us to stay in tune with the latest developments in CM!

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