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Developing an Effective Approach to Agile Change Management

By: Christy Overall


At the beginning of the decade, you couldn’t get through a consulting conference without hearing a mention of Organizational Change Management (OCM). It was the consulting specialty du jour, and many hours were spent defending its value, explaining its worth (in conference rooms and via contract language), and developing the skills to put it into practice. A few years later, Agile caught fire. Its benefits were also highly touted, and companies around the world saw increases in productivity as they adopted its principles and rolled out its iterative approach to delivering value.

As the decade draws to a close, it bears asking whether OCM and Agile can coexist. Can an OCM approach help organizations adopt Agile in a more seamless way? Can the all-too-common “pains” of Agile transformations be minimized or avoided entirely by adopting a formal Agile change management approach? In a word, “Yes.”

The Power of Unifying Agile and OCM

The Agile approach to software development (and most other kinds of value delivery) focuses on bringing business and IT teams together to prioritize the target functionality, specify the levels of effort required to create this functionality, and, ultimately, deliver this functionality in small chunks. Many organizations have an infrastructure that is not aligned with this approach and therefore require more focused Agile change management.

Organizational Change Management is a framework that focuses on understanding and managing an organization’s ability to transition from one set of business processes to another. It also prepares an organization’s people to be successful both during and after this transition. When undertaken in tandem with an Agile transformation, OCM happens iteratively throughout the various “ceremonies” of an Agile Sprint.

Group of professionals discuss agile change management plan.

The ADKAR Model

Leveraging the ADKAR model of change management is one highly effective approach to combining OCM and Agile. Created by Prosci Founder Jeff Hiatt, the ADKAR acronym represents the five tangible, concrete outcomes people need to achieve in order to effect lasting change: awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, and reinforcement.

An explanation of the ADKAR model of change management.

In an Agile context, these indicators are measured at the Sprint level. There are many tools available to structure this evaluation, but taking a simple view of these qualifiers across stakeholder groups for each ceremony or each Sprint as a whole is a great way to marry the Organizational Change Management approach with an Agile transformation.


Sprint Planning Sessions

Backlog RefinementsSprint ReviewsSprint Retrospectives
ExecutivesAw, DAw, D, KD, KK
Business SponsorsKD, RAb

Aw, D

IT SponsorsAw, D, KKAw, DD
Business Team MemberAbAbAw, DR
IT Team MembersD, K, RAd, KK, RAw

Additionally, there are many standard OCM templates that can be leveraged at various points during an Agile transformation, including (but by no means limited to):

  • Organizational Readiness Plans/Evaluations (prior to the transformation and before and after training)
  • Communication Plans (prior to the transformation)
  • Stakeholder Engagement Plans (at the outset of the transformation and three or four Sprints in)
  • Stakeholder Interview Questionnaires (at the outset of the transformation and three or four Sprints in)
  • Training Plans (essential for ensuring that both executives and members of the team truly understand what “Agile” means before undertaking the transformation)
Three young professionals discuss their agile change management plan.

At the end of the day, many Agile transformations fail, oftentimes due to a lack of dedicated focus on one or more pillars of Organizational Change Management. An Agile transformation is like any other business process change, with the exception that it requires a change of mindset, which makes OCM and Agile change management absolutely essential. Ultimately, if you don’t manage this change strategically, your Agile transformation is likely to fall short of expectations.

Tackle Agile change management with SEI

In facilitating better Agile change management processes, SEI’s seasoned consultants are poised to provide invaluable support to organizations navigating these complex transformations. Drawing on our expertise in both Agile methodologies and Organizational Change Management, we offer tailored solutions to align organizational goals with Agile principles seamlessly. By conducting thorough assessments, developing comprehensive change management checklists, and providing guidance on distinguishing between change control and change management, SEI empowers organizations to embrace Agile methodologies effectively.

Christy Overall

Christy Overall


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