The intersection of Agile and Change Management is a trending topic, but questions still remain about how, exactly, they fit together. As it turns out, there are a variety of ways they can relate. To shed some light on the convergence of Agile and Change Management, we’ve identified three applications of this unique partnership that can benefit your team or organization.  

  1. Applying Change Management to Agile Execution
  2. Applying Agile to Organizational Change
  3. Applying Change Management to Agile Transformation

In the first part of our 3-part blog series, we explore the relationship of Change Management applied to Agile execution. Using our own case study within the health care industry, we’ve outlined how to integrate the two methodologies effectively.

The U.S. healthcare industry is in flux; changing economic, regulatory and consumer demands are driving an increased focus on efficiency and value. With growth in expenses outpacing growth in revenues across the industry, one hospital system wanted to implement a software tool that enabled increased transparency into financial metrics and better managed high-risk patients and accounts.  This tool was to be rolled out across the organization and tactically customized by site.  To improve overall business value outcomes, the leaders of the organization decided to pair its Agile approach to delivery with Change Management methodology, ensuring a successful and sustainable implementation.

This hospital system is among a growing group of organizations that are realizing the benefits Change Management methodology can bring to Agile. In contrast to traditional development methodolody (e.g.Waterfall), which is a sequential process of discrete stages in a long project or release cycle, Agile methodology is focused on being nimble and iterating on successes. Its practitioners break projects down into bits of user functionality called user stories, prioritize them, and then work iteratively to develop features and incorporate changes. Agile has been credited with increasing success rates in software development and improving quality, speed to market, and team morale.

Change Management can be a force multiplier for Agile by ensuring that what your Agile teams develop is adopted and sustainable. By definition, Change Management is a process that enables organizations to achieve a desired future state. Its principles and practices increase the chance of project success and stakeholder adoption and diminish the periods of doubt that can lead to low morale and reduced productivity during a change, whether it be to people, processes, or tools in use by an organization.

Traditional Change Management approaches have a sizable planning component up-front to align objectives and develop an overall strategy. While this up-front investment in planning runs counter to Agile’s sprint-focused, value-driven delivery,  there are specific Change Management activities that can be done outside of Agile iterations to enable an end-to-end view, allowing teams to apply a Change Management lens to Agile development.  Among these activities are:

Stakeholder identification and analysis:

Understand which users (internal and external) will be affected. A release targeted at customers, for example, could have implications for internal work flows as well. Who needs to know about the release?  How will it affect day-to-day work, perspectives, and morale?

Understanding the current and future states: 

Where is the organization now and where is it going? What is the gap between the current state and the future state, and what needs to be done to bridge it? After the product or feature is released and implemented, how do you train and communicate with users so they know how to use it and extract maximum value? Impact assessments, ROI assessments, and current state process mapping are some of the tools that can help inform your team and identify training and communication needs.

Sustainability and reinforcement: 

How will your organization define what success looks like? How will you know whether users are adopting the change and sustaining it over time? The Agile Product Owner or Product Manager is often charged with gathering feedback about technical features, but Change Management can help Agile teams view the release from a broader scope: how it changes workflows and affects marketing and branding, for example. 

To integrate these Change Management processes into Agile sprint planning and deliverables, consider creating user stories around training or building Change Management deliverables into success criteria. These activities can be managed by product owners who have Change Management expertise. Large initiatives with significant changes can often benefit from embedding a Change Management practitioner into the Agile team to help integrate deliverables into the project and evaluate change on a sprint-by-sprint basis.

At the aforementioned hospital system, incorporating a Change Management perspective into the Agile software release process enabled the teams to ensure that stakeholders knew how and why the new software had been implemented. Rather than simply delivering a tool to users, the teams helped users understand how and when to integrate it into their existing workflow: they helped paint a compelling picture of the value the new software would add. The Change Management teams tailored training to match how stakeholders were using the existing tool, and they reinforced adoption with a contest rewarding them for adoption. Numerous studies have found that Agile projects deliver value to customers quicker and more consistently than traditional methods, and incorporating Change Management can have an additive benefit. Pairing the two methodologies together can enable your teams to realize the benefits of both methodologies simultaneously to quickly deliver high-quality products that users adopt and continue to use to their maximum value.