Imagine that you, an experienced change management practitioner, are assigned a new change initiative to manage. You attend your first meeting with the project team ready to plan out the course of the project from now through go-live and beyond. However, you find out that they have only planned out the first two weeks of work! More shockingly, the project plan calls for only addressing work in these two week ‘sprint’ cycles. What do you do?

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The Challenge of Applying Change Management in an Agile Development Process

This is just one example of how an Agile development process can catch change managers unaware. On the surface, Agile and change management may seem like an ideal marriage of efficient solution development and a structured approach to ensuring adoption and usage. However, many change managers have told us that an Agile development process is almost antithetical to the traditional change management approach. You may have questions like:

  • “How are you supposed to resource for projects that don’t even know their own resourcing needs?”
  • “Are we supposed to implement a full change management cycle on every sprint?”
  • “How are we supposed to plan for knowledge- and ability-building activities from feedback that we have not gotten yet?”

Agile’s focus on planning work in quick iterations not only changes the way we plan and deliver key change management deliverables, but also requires us to question and possibly redefine aspects of our established change management approaches. While many people have started discussing how to apply change management in an Agile development process, very little actual research exists on how to adapt change management and get results in this context.

The need to formally explore this topic has clearly emerged. I am thrilled to announce that, in response, Prosci has launched a new, targeted study to explore the intersection between Agile and change management.

Goal of the Change Management and Agile Research Study

The study has two main components, both aimed at uncovering lessons learned and best practices in managing the people side of change related to Agile development processes:

  • Managing the people side of change when moving from a waterfall development process to an Agile development process. The focus of this part of the study is at the organizational level. These questions explore how the change (sometimes called Agile transformation) was effectively structured and managed.
  • Managing the people side of change within an initiative that is using an Agile development process. The focus of this part of the study is at the initiative level. These questions explore how change management practices must be adapted and adjusted to be effective in an effort using an Agile development approach. Pulling forward existing research, we'll focus on what specific adaptations are required along the lines of sponsorship, communication, manager engagement, employee engagement, training, resistance management, reinforcement, structured approach, dedicated resources, and the integration of change management and project teams.

If you have managed change on initiatives using an Agile development process, please share your insights with us so that we can uncover lessons learned and best practices for managing the people side of change in an Agile process.


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Evolution of Prosci Research

Written by
Robert Stise
Robert Stise

Robert uses his extensive educational background in social science research and writing to continually expand and deepen the body of knowledge dedicated to change management. In his role as Prosci Research Product Family Manager, Robert works to plan, run and produce meaningful advances in the field of change management.