The intersection of Agile and Change Management is a trending topic, but questions 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.  


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

In this post, the second installment of our series, we consider how organizational change can leverage Agile theory and methods. Each organization is a complicated web of roles, processes, values, communications and assumptions, and changing an organization’s culture is one of the most challenging and ambiguous goals leaders can undertake. A straightforward guide that allows an organization to make small yet impactful changes can help organizations reach this goal.

The Case Study

Thirty years ago, a homegrown startup was born, one that felt more like a family than a business.

As this consumer products company grew into an almost $300 million organization, however, leaders began to realize that the employee culture wasn’t aligned with its business goals. Despite its growth, the company had continued to rely on its familial culture. Processes evolved organically and lacked structure.  Without clear objectives, company meetings often lasted hours yet were unproductive. Roles were poorly defined, and employees didn’t understand what was expected of them, creating inefficient workflows and an ambivalent culture. What’s more, repeated changes in ownership fostered fear among employees and a mistrust of leadership. With an ambiguous, undocumented internal brand identity, employees had to rely on the strong external brand for guidance.

The company’s leaders had set aggressive five-year revenue targets, and they knew they couldn’t achieve this growth without high-performing teams and an improved employee culture. They began by creating a cultural impact team that brought influential employees together.

Applying Agile to Organizational Change

Cultural shifts can have an ambiguous goal, and Agile is especially well-suited to situations that have an unknown end state or final product. We recommend that the cultural impact team from the case study leverage these basic Agile precepts to effect organizational culture change:   

The Agile principle: Welcome changing your plans as circumstances dictate. Harness the change to deliver greater value.

The Change Management interpretation: Leverage the value of experimentation and create a learning organization. Recognize that culture is not static. Build feedback loops to ensure continuous improvement and generate consistent value for the organization.

The Agile principle: Work iteratively with a bias for shorter iterations that are reasonable to the domain. Regularly reflect on what’s working and what’s not, adjusting accordingly.  

The Change Management interpretation: Rather than organizing the work as a phased change management activity working through project mobilization, planning and preparation, implementation and management, and stabilization, find ways to slice the work thinly to deliver value in short iterations.  

The Agile principle: Focus on early and continuous delivery of value, however you define “early” and “value,” as compared with a lump-sum approach.

The Change Management interpretation: Transitioning the organization to measure delivery based on value to the customer or the organization rather than by milestones and cost will focus, evolve, and prioritize high-value activities. Delivering early allows for immediate feedback to reduce the waste and risk of investing in an unproven big-bang solution. 

The Agile principle: Build project teams with a representative body of participants. The best work comes from empowered, self-organized teams.

The Change Management Interpretation: The cultural impact team should include people with different skill sets and perspectives from across the organization. This allows the team to develop solutions that represent new ways of thinking and reach beyond traditional organizational boundaries that may be impeding existing change efforts.

The Agile principle: A sustainable pace produces the best results.

The Change Management Interpretation: A heavy, phased approach puts the organization at risk of burning out before change is realized. In contrast, short iterations that show incremental value can energize the team and the organization and even create their own perpetual motion: Denial, doubt, acceptance; denial, doubt, acceptance; denial, doubt, acceptance. These iterations can create a culture of continuous improvement and learning.

Keep an eye out for the third part of our series to learn how to apply change management techniques to your Agile Transformation.

Interested in learning more about Agile?  Read our case studies and related blogs.

Going through some changes at your organization?  Take our brief change impact assessment.