Change Management is one of the most difficult areas in Agile projects and management consulting today. Many consultants and companies have developed standardized, prescriptive and one size fits all approaches to agile transformation and change management projects. In many cases, these prescriptive solutions do not always take into account the client’s complex culture or their ability to embrace and sustain a lasting change. IN my personal opinion, disruptive change is not always the best course of action.
With the increasing popularity of Agile transformation projects – getting products developed and to the market faster – it begs some of the following questions, have we commoditized agile consulting and transformation projects too much. Have we developed too many playbooks, certifications and toolkits for the masses to follow that promise quick and lasting results? Are we creating lasting change or do clients revert back to past and familiar practices once the consultants have left the building?
There are some consulting companies and independent Agile Coaches that are changing their approach to these transformation projects that shows promise. Breaking away from the standard 4 week cycles of training where they take the project team offsite and teach them Agile principles (Scrum, Kanban and the like) and then coach them for a short period of time with scheduled check-ups, these firms instead embed their coaches in their teams from Day 1 to learn their processes and culture. Listening to the project teams the consultants are able to develop an understanding of the business issues and cultural landscape and work with the client team to develop the best approach to be used for the project. Sharing the responsibility and acting as a facilitator for the discussion creates a shared ownership between the client and consulting teams for the plan and results. This approach typically requires more upfront planning work but it can yield more lasting results after the consultants leave the building. Once the project is underway, the Agile Coaches train their client counterparts on the job and coach them in their teams. Some companies have developed online training that can be viewed and reviewed periodically as needed by the team. The training is used a supplement and refresher for the team.
One of the other key areas of focus is Executive Engagement. Consultancies with strong Client partners who understand the client’s business needs and can coach at the Executive Level should see more success in these complex projects. I heard from a colleague recently that he attended a training course on Agile Coaching and one large international company had booked most of the seats for their employees. When he asked the employees why they were there and what they intended to learn from the course, they replied that they did not understand why they were there and that their Executive Team did not appear to be bought into the transformation project. They predicted that they would continue using the same approaches they had for years once the project ended. From their point of view Executives were not engaged. Keeping Executives engaged from the beginning and keeping open communication throughout the project is one of the critical components necessary for a lasting change result.
I would love to hear comments from Agile Coach, Engagement Leaders and Client Partners in the field. What approach has worked best for your most successful projects? How is your approach different than others in the industry?
Reach out and share you thoughts with me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment on this blog. I welcome all constructive feedback and want to hear your opinions.
John Todd is a partner at Downtown Recruiting Inc, Board member of PMI MassBay and avid Agile enthusiast in Boston, MA