Creating Alignment for Agile Change

Creating Alignment for Agile Change

“You know why that team can’t produce anything? Because they’re not doing ‘true agile’”

This was the resulting comment from a conversation I had with a QA manager many years ago in response to how one of the Agile teams was making life miserable for her “downstream” QA team.
I’m sure you’ve heard something similar or even participated in the “doing Agile” vs “being Agile” debate. Many in the Agile community have moved on from that discussion and have learned that implementing Agile is less about “Agile” and more about creating alignment for why an organization wants to adopt Agile in the first place.
The obvious blanket statements in the change management world are things like, “ensure constant, and clear communication”, “communicate the ‘why’ of the change”, “build engagement and create focus” and other phrases that sure sound great, but apparently aren’t helping with making change efforts more successful.
The change management world likes to sell the 70% number. That is, 70% of change efforts fail. Or more accurately, 30% of change efforts are successful, but selling that 70% number is more effective because it allows big change management firms to sell their ‘tried and true’ methods.
The problem with that is, there is no tried and true method that ensures successful change. No one tool, method, process or approach is going to consistently work because of the constant changing variable that exists in all change programs.

Everyone has a strongly held belief that their way is the right way. The people who “get” Agile, will argue in favour of embracing uncertainty and ‘being Agile’, while the people who’s brains simply aren’t wired for Agile will argue in favour of tools and processes and structure.
A change tool, method or process isn’t going to alter someone’s beliefs but they can be a powerful trigger to a conversation. It’s the conversation that is going to chip away at that strongly held belief.
People want to know what’s in it for them when change is introduced. They don’t care about what the urgency for the change is. They don’t care what will produce quick wins. They don’t care about how to anchor the change in corporate culture.
Creating alignment for Agile change starts with a conversation around what’s important. Here are a few tips you can try tomorrow to get people aligned around the adoption of Agile.

Create a Change Canvas: (Creating Alignment for Agile Transformation with Canvases) If your organization is small enough, you can do this with the whole company at once. If it’s larger, you may want to do this across multiple layers and then compare the results.

2) Publish the Change Canvas: ON A BIG VISIBLE WALL, not in Sharepoint! Yes I am yelling!

3) Conduct management/organizational stand ups in front of the big visible wall. This will show people that management is walking the walk and not installing Agile to fix teams and people.

4) Host Lean Coffee sessions every week to create and maintain transparency and open, honest dialogue.

Is this how you can ensure your organization will succeed with Agile? Absolutely not, but if you can commit to the change by involving the people affected by the change in the design of the change, you’re more likely to get people aligned why it’s important that the organization change.


presenter-chucky-150x150 Jason Little helps organizations discover more effective practices for managing work and people. Sometimes that means plucking tools from the Agile world and sometimes that
means using more traditional management practices, such as The Rockefeller Habits.

He is the author of the Lean Change Management: Innovative Practices for Managing Organizational Change

Jason Little