Successful change management through agile framework

By: Subhash Nigam, Project Manager, Aon Hewitt

Aon

For many organizations, managing change is a struggle.  It is a tussle since it engages elements of status quo and transitions those elements into a different state.  Change managers have to be cognizant of their own environments and the changes they want to deliver for sustaining maximum productivity gains  for their respective organizations.  The struggle with delivering change is partly because when it comes to making a change, organizations tend to take a bigger bite than they can chew.  Agile change management practice can address such issues as it is geared towards adding value in small increments.  Agility in change management requires making and delivering changes in smaller amounts using an approach that uses brief time-periods.  It promotes managing change by focusing on value, delivering the value and optimizing the value.  Change is delivered in small chunks that are time-boxed.

In today’s world of rapid product and/or service delivery where organizations are focusing on velocity over perfection, it is critical for change managers to use a light-weight quick-hit approach in bringing changes to an organization.  Such an approach can provide a loop back into the organization and can bring effective change through a continuous improvement cycle.  After determining what has to change and its impact, a few change ambassadors may be aligned to the process.  These ambassadors could be members of various teams such as finance, operations, compliance, purchasing, or other functional areas who can assist with delivering the change.  Typically, they belong to functional areas that are impacted by the change.  These ambassadors are also the eyes and ears of the change and provide great insight into how change management is progressing.  They are essential to bringing high quality feedback to the table for leaders who are leading the change.  Using their critical input, delivery of change is optimized.

Introducing and managing change is a difficult process.  Measuring change is critical therefore a few effective and meaningful metrics are important.  These metrics provide input to the change management process in order to improve the delivery and effectiveness of the change.  When planning for transition, change leaders can follow many approaches, however, following an approach blindly has no merit.  On the contrary, it could be detrimental for an organization.  It brings low acceptance, inefficiencies, confusion, low-morale and results in wasting of time – something that no one wants to be part of.

There are many approaches to introducing and sustaining the change.  A couple of known ones are Procsi’s powerful ADKAR change model and Lamarsh’s Managed Changed Model.  Bringing change using any of these models, we can see some high quality results.  However, whatever our methodology is, it has to be right-sized.  It has to be aligned with organizational goals, commitment, and availability of resources for successful outcomes.  Many change management initiatives fail because leaders underestimate the number of hours people will be ready to commit on top of their busy working schedules.  People don’t want to fill long tedious documents and attend extended working sessions as these gatherings tend to consume useful productive hours. It typically happens when change leaders ask stakeholders and various teams to attend numerous marathon meetings and brain-storming sessions without focusing on a time-bound delivery-oriented approach.

When introducing change into an organization, it is not useful to remind people of where they are today.  It is not worth spending time on creating extensive documentation showing how things are working currently.  When asked, most people already know what is and is not working in their environment.  Probing them further makes them irritated, defensive, and very likely less participative.  Agile change management calls for three things:  focusing on where we want to go, how to deliver the change and how to ensure that it can be successfully sustained.  It is unproductive to focus on where we are coming from, instead, attention and planning for change is oriented towards future.    Agile change management uses a time-boxed approach.  Change is created, implemented and sustained in brief time-limited chunks.  On top of that, behavior due to executed change is observed.  Based on continuous feedback, substance and delivery of the change is optimized.

People want to know what will make their work more efficient and how they can add more value to their organization.  Key focus of agile change management is to bring productivity gains in small increments into an organization.  Since human capital is the greatest asset in any organization, change is oriented towards people and not the product.   Change focuses on creation, delivery and optimization of the value through which an organization can break through the shackles of unproductive behavior.  This can happen through a change management process that is agile and pragmatic.  Such a process will see a higher rate of acceptance and bring accolades of growth to an organization.

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