Last week, I had the pleasure of delivering our first APMG Agile Change Agent course, and I wanted to share some of the content, impressions, and reflections that can be applied even without taking the class.
We started the course with an important clarification: talking about Change Management is not the same as talking about Project Management. That said, it seems obvious, but the idea that Change Management can include Project Management should not be lost. In other words, Change Management considers both the tangible changes that are being promoted in a project (such as the implementation of new processes, systems, services, etc.) and the behavioral changes that are being observed in people (new ways of working, incorporation of new habits, understanding how to do things, etc.).
Given this first clarification, it is easy to see that Change Management can have a large scale and scope and that managing it within a complex and, unfortunately, a constantly changing context can become a big challenge.
One of the keys for an Agile Change Agents is to utilize an Agile Change Management approach that offers a structured, step-by-step work process that is flexible in its work within each step.
Because when there is uncertainty about the outcome, we should provide certainty about the process.
This agile approach to Change Management proposes for its agents to look for quick ways to introduce changes and see results, starting with defining a roadmap and thinking about which business needs will motivate us to change, without losing focus on the relationships between people and on creating a favorable environment for change.
I’ll explain each of these factors in detail:
A roadmap is a step-by-step guide that will help us manage any type of change, from start-up to implementation, flexible enough to consider all change needs; it will help us answer important questions.
The roadmap is made up of four principal elements that help us develop and deliver change throughout its life cycle:
- Timeframe: the total time the change will be managed. The timeframe is fixed. However, the deliverables throughout the life cycle of the change have flexibility.
- Iterations: blocks of time in which the timeframe will be divided and where the activities necessary to generate change will take place.
In agile change management, there is a determined estimate on how we use time.
- Outcomes [of each iteration]: the desired results that the change will deliver.
- Processes: the set of activities necessary to advance through each iteration which provide consistency in how change is developed and delivered. These processes will be repeated in each iteration and provide an opportunity to review the work from the previous iteration, ensure alignment with business needs, and discover how to continue working on the next iteration.
Thanks to these elements, the solution is built in an evolutionary way. Change is not planned in detail from the beginning, but will emerge as it continues to be discovered; detailed planning is done as you go.
Using the above roadmap, building is incremental by relying on iterative processes where changes are adopted by users as soon as they’re created, which makes it possible to achieve a return on investment before completing the change.
Business need drives change.
Business needs correspond to the purpose of the change and are made up of three key elements:
- Benefits: improvements that can be measured and quantified
- Requirements: things that “must be done”
- Acceptance Criteria: define the quality of what is delivered and, consequently, the level of satisfaction
The challenge is integrating these three elements with each other in such a way that the benefits are analyzed first, and are then used to help evaluate which requirements to prioritize.
This requires a paradigm shift from the traditional way of working, where we usually elicit requirements and focus on delivering them regardless of whether value is being delivered (we implicitly assume that some benefit will be achieved). Instead, think first about the benefits the business wants to obtain, then think about what needs to be done in order to achieve them. This is planning on a benefit-based basis rather than a requirement-based basis.
As change agents, in many cases we don’t have the capacity to make decisions, but we do have the capacity to influence. The ability to influence will be based on the strength of the relationships we are able to build.
In this block of the course, we explored the importance of relationships with people in influencing and persuading them to change the way they work.
To achieve strong relationships, Change Agent’s must rely on trust and empathy in their conversations to gain others’ honest opinions, understandings, and points of view. This, in turn, helps to understand how the change is impacting them and how we can support them.
But to understand others, we first have to understand ourselves. For this reason, the course emphasizes self-care and personal leadership by provoking thought around elements such as:
- The commitment we have to change and how we model it.
- The authority we have or are given, and how this authority will help us positively influence people.
- The self-control of our emotions and behaviors to manage how we want to approach in each situation.
- The flexibility and openness to change and new opportunities.
- The trust that we convey.
Trust will have a direct impact on the speed of change: the more trust generated, the less time we’ll need to implement change.
An appropriate environment for change will help us create appropriate opportunities for change, implement them successfully, and balance change activities with people’s usual activities.
Therefore, we need to work on creating an environment that provides:
- Security: convey the message that new ways of working may be difficult at first and it is understood that productivity will decrease until all the necessary knowledge is acquired.
- Energy: encourage people to be part of and take ownership of change. To do this, a positive, enjoyable, and motivating environment must be created. High energy will generate valuable circles of work that will help increase creativity, collaboration, and resilience when difficult times come (which they will).
- Motivation: foster intrinsic motivators (purpose, autonomy, and people’s natural talents) to create an environment conducive to change.
The combination of these factors will help to earn people’s genuine participation, reduce the anxiety or fear that change can generate, and, in contrast, increase confidence and motivation.
If you want to know more about Melanie Franklin, the course author, please visit her website.
Want to be an Agile Change Agent?
Learn more about our course and how you can get certified as an APMG Agile Change Agent.