December 20, 2023
Enterprise Program Leadership

Enterprise Agile Change Management

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.)?

Risk vs. Uncertainty

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 must 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:


How an Agile Change Management Plan Address the Three Primary Types of Uncertainty

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:

  • Human motivations often remain hidden from our view

From the very beginning, stakeholders not only participate in but share the change initiative.  The sponsor candidly admits what they don’t know and invites others to fill in the blanks.  By changing course in response to concerns, the sponsor demonstrates that they not only are in touch with reality but responsive to concerns and emergent problems.  Motivations may be obscure, but behavior is easy enough to ascertain if you take the time to observe.  This incremental collaboration will instill confidence that the initiative is on the right track.

  • The future is inherently vague

Agile change management never positions the change sponsor as knowing more than they could possibly know.  Since management really doesn’t know everything up front, the fact that things are going off track will often be obvious to the staff before it is to management.  Agile change management does not provide a crystal ball, but it does provide ways to keep track of the emergent state of the evolving change initiative and to broadly share it.  Perhaps most importantly, it expects the plan will need to adapt rapidly and frequently over the course of the initiative.

  • Once groups fall out of equilibrium, you can’t predict what will happen

Since agility expects change and the need to adapt to this change, it provides tools to stay tuned to developing conditions minute by minute.  If for whatever reasons (i.e., unanticipated consequences), negative patterns start to emerge, they can be addressed in a timely manner and before they get out of hand.

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!

Kenway’s Approach to Agile

Here at Kenway, our expertise is coupled with our passion to guide organizations through the process of adopting Agile methodologies and principles.  Regardless of where you are in your agile change management plan within your enterprise, Kenway experts are here to guide you throughout the entire process.  If you’re ready to take the next step in your Agile journey, connect with one of our consultants to learn more.



How is change management handled in Agile?
  • Key considerations when applying agile to change management. 
    • Transparency and Communication: Agile emphasizes open and transparent communication throughout the organization. Change management efforts should start with clear and frequent communication about the proposed changes, their rationale, and their expected impact. Stakeholders should be informed and involved from the beginning.
    • Stakeholder Engagement and Feedback: Agile change management encourages active involvement of stakeholders, including employees at all levels. Engaging employees in the change process ensures that their concerns and motivations are addressed. This collaborative approach promotes ownership, a shared understanding of change goals, and the proactive resolution of any difficult conversations, conflicts, or challenges that may arise. Continuous feedback loops help identify problems early and allow for corrective actions, ensuring that the change initiative stays on the right track.
    • Leadership Support: Leadership plays a crucial role in Agile change management by setting the tone, providing resources, and modeling agile behaviors. Leaders should be visible champions of the change and actively support the Agile approach.
What are the benefits of agile change management?
    • Increased Adaptability and Emotional Resilience: Agile change management embraces the idea that change is inherently uncertain. When organizations expect and plan for change, it tends to decrease emotional responses to the unexpected, helping the team remain fact-based and rational. This adaptability and emotional resilience ensure that change initiatives remain aligned with the organization’s goals and can be adjusted as needed.
    • Higher Quality and Predictability: Agile principles borrowed from software development, such as transparency and iterative planning, can improve the quality and predictability of change initiatives. By breaking down changes into smaller, manageable increments, organizations can more effectively track progress and make data-driven decisions for continuous improvement.
    • Employee Ownership and Alignment: When employees are actively involved in shaping the change, they feel a sense of ownership. Agile empowers individuals and teams to make decisions and implement changes within their areas of expertise, increasing their commitment to the success of the initiative. Recent scaled agile frameworks have proven effective in reconciling the dynamic tension between bottom-up ownership and autonomy with top-down strategic and operational objectives. This alignment ensures that organizational goals and individual contributions are harmonized, leading to more successful change implementations.
Does Agile have a change control board?
    • In Agile methodologies, the concept of a traditional change control board, as commonly seen in more structured project management approaches, may not be explicitly present. However, Agile initiatives do recognize the need for effective leadership and guidance to support change. While it may not be referred to as a “change control board,” Agile initiatives often establish a leadership steering committee, sometimes referred to as a “steerco.”
    • This steering committee serves as an essential component in Agile change management. Its primary purpose is to provide guidance, support, and demonstrate leadership commitment to the change initiative. The name may vary, but the function remains consistent. Whether it’s called a change control board, a steerco, or something else entirely, the crucial aspect is that it consists of key leaders and stakeholders who play a central role in overseeing and steering the change process.
What is the difference between change management in a waterfall and an Agile scrum?
    • The main difference between change management in Waterfall and Agile Scrum lies in their approach to planning, flexibility, communication, and the timing of change implementation. Waterfall is more structured and planned upfront, whereas Agile Scrum is adaptive, collaborative, and allows for continuous adjustments throughout the project.
    • It’s important to note that there is no hard-and-fast rule that dictates you must exclusively use one approach over the other. Depending on your specific circumstances and project requirements, you may choose to adopt a hybrid approach that combines elements of both methodologies. However, traditionally, Agile is preferred when there is a high level of uncertainty, and you anticipate learning and adapting during implementation. In contrast, Waterfall provides more certainty but may be less suited for projects where change is expected and the environment is dynamic. Ultimately, the choice between Waterfall and Agile should be based on a careful evaluation of your project’s unique characteristics and the degree of uncertainty involved.

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