May 19, 2023
Enterprise Program Leadership

Enterprise Change Management: The Agile Way

Organizations that have embraced traditional best practices for Change Management, we embrace the ADKAR framework, are familiar with concepts like “start at the top,” “create ownership,” “communicate the message,” etc. Those same companies execute job impact and change readiness assessments, communication plans, and change risk analysis. But is that enough? What if companies executed Enterprise Change Management agilely, achieving the same benefits Agile offers to software development (e.g., transparency, predictable delivery, improved quality, risk management, etc.)?

Before we can answer this question, we must first accept that uncertainty exists in all change initiatives, whether the change is driven by IT or non-IT programs. With that in mind, it is important to recognize the difference between risk and uncertainty.

With risk, we may not know for sure that something will happen, but we do have an idea of its probability of occurring. With uncertainty, we have no quantitative basis to predict the likelihood of a future event occurring, or even what is the potential obstacle. Traditional change management techniques are not designed to guarantee outcomes that are inherently uncertain.

To ensure the success of our change initiatives, we must navigate through significant uncertainty. Agile methods allow us to manage uncertainty as we might manage risk, helping us accept and manage through uncertainty. The fundamental mental shift is accepting that we will learn or discover new things that necessitate an adjustment to our original plan. We accept the new situation and embrace that we have to adjust when we make those discoveries.  Since we can never know enough to plot a fool-proof course, we must learn as we go and make course corrections along the way. This is Agile at its core!  You can implement the core Agile concept of multi-level planning to accomplish change management agilely:

Agile Change Management principles

There are three primary types of uncertainty, that if addressed agilely, can ensure an effective adoption of a change initiative even at the enterprise level. Consider below how multi-level planning addresses the three primary types of uncertainty:

Enterprise Change Management inherently carries with it uncertainty. Often the response to such uncertainty is resistance. However, Agile Change Management provides a way to manage through the uncertainty. You might be surprised to learn that when offered the opportunity to change in an agile way, people don’t resist significantly less because they can influence the change and thus have ownership. So go out there and be agile with your Change Management!

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