Best Practices

Agile Change Management: 12 Ways to Move Quickly Under Pressure

Jonathan Friedman
January 30, 2021
Agile Change Management: 12 Ways to Move Quickly Under Pressure

It's hard to find anyone, on an individual or corporate level, who wasn't affected by the events of 2020.

A global pandemic? Check.

A tumultuous election cycle in the United States? Check.

A burgeoning racial justice movement with demands to upend structures built on systemic racism? Check.

Organizations are adjusting to an entirely new world. More change occurred in the past twelve months than in most decades. Rolling with the punches is one thing, but business as usual is impossible to maintain.

With that in mind, agile change management might be the answer. Organizations are facing change in almost every imaginable way.

What's the best way to incorporate agile change management under pressure? We'll show you!

Below is everything we will cover. Feel free to skip ahead.

What is agile change management?

At its' core, agile change management is a type of management that allows you to embrace an imperfect, revolutionary vision for your company.

It won't always be pretty. It may be a diamond in the rough. But it allows your organization to pivot quickly and meet internal, client, industry, and consumer needs.

12 Ways to move quickly under pressure

1. Embrace agility

With an agile chain of command, managers can quickly respond to crises before they impact.

Need some agile tips? Share the load with others. It's a rare situation when one person has all the answers.

If you can delegate some items to others, do so. They can also help with brainstorming, crisis handling, and more.

Another method is embracing deep focus. This means you need to focus on the task at hand. Let's be honest, for many people, the world has been falling apart in slow-motion for months now.

By focusing on the next action item rather than the overarching picture, you can get more done.

2. Treat it as an opportunity

Challenge or opportunity? You decide. It's easy to mourn your organization's current state and the broader industry.

Can't the world go back to normal? Instead of wishing for the good old days, consider taking it as a chance to make your company better than ever.

For instance, most organizations can't work from the office these days. It's easy to feel distanced from your coworkers when working from your living room. Company traditions like Christmas parties or celebrating birthdays are virtual and non-existent.

Think of it this way, however. Instead of being constrained by location, your company can attract talent from all over the world. Imagine what you can do now!

3. Embrace what-if scenarios

What's the worst that could happen? What's the best that could happen?

If you consider all the potential trickle-down scenarios that could result from your actions, you'll be well prepared.

Your brain might be running wild anyway. If you're stressed about implementing agile change management techniques, there are many things that 'could' go wrong.

Treat this anxiety as a red flag. Is it exposing a real crack in your plan? Is it helping you plan against future disasters?

If so, take action and move on. If not, dismiss it and focus on what you can control.

4. Solicit other perspectives

Remember our earlier tip about delegating tasks to others? This is valuable for a few reasons.

For instance, you might have a background in human resources. This means you're invaluable for your insight into details, human behavior, company red tape, and more.

But when it comes to an understanding your engineering team's process, you might be at a loss. That's where someone else can step in and help!

It's impossible to have an insider perspective on everything. Picking someone else's brain can help you when using agile change management approaches.

5. Agile change management questions

How are you approaching team structure, deadlines, and project style? There are many different ways to hit a goal.

Agile change management requires focusing on the individual and how he or she can improve the process. It involves trusting employees to know how they work best.

If you're trying to audit your organization's approach, consider these questions.

How do you break down progress tracking? For instance, you might assign hard deadlines that are mandatory to the success of a project or the organization as a whole.

There's not much flexibility in that approach. In contrast, you could introduce sprints to your team. This involves breaking a task down into smaller chunks and tracking progress throughout days or weeks.

It would also be best if you considered what your continuous improvement process looks like. It's easy to get to something that works, then say, "don't fix what isn't broken." There's always a way to improve!

Consider how you're treating teams on an individual level, too. Are you giving them a degree of autonomy to prioritize, organize, and make progress? If not, they could also be constrained to give their best.

6. Consider scrum

For a scrum approach, consider implementing task management tools such as Jira or Trello. They divide tasks into bite-sized pieces, send digital reminders, and assign clear responsibility.

The scrum approach means that you'll work backward. Start with the customer's needs or feedback. Then, break that down into a series of action items.

These action items need to be grouped into sprints. Sprints usually last between one and four weeks, depending on the problem's items and complexity.

A scrum team is mostly self-managed and often takes a daily standup approach to promote individual accountability. However, some groups assign a scrum master that optimizes performance and accountability.

A scrum approach's end goal is to create agile solutions to consumer needs.

7. Consider Kanban

If a scrum approach doesn't fit your agile change management needs, consider Kanban. This approach started in Toyota factories in the 1940s.

If you need quick turnaround times, implementing Kanban might work for your organization. Rather than focusing on time boundaries, such as sprints, it's focused on activities.

These activities are prioritized in a funnel that stretches from 'to do' to 'in progress' to 'completed.' It requires constant updating in an obvious fashion.

That way, everyone on the team knows the status of each activity. This allows true agility as any clogs in the funnel are visible.

It allows higher visibility, less backlogged problems, accountability, and more excellent prioritization capability than other methods.

8. What is the purpose of management?

What is agile change management currently doing for your team? Often, what makes or breaks a work experience is your boss. This is true for all your team members, the ones who are doing the grunt work to ensure your organization flourishes.

In adverse scenarios, leaders are tasked with micromanagement, criticism, and naysaying. In a positive environment, management enables success.

To start, they do this by crafting an agile, positive environment. Managers identify roadblocks and remove them before they become an issue.

They also check in with team members. What gaps in their skill sets could prove problematic for their project? What career areas could they grow in?

Managers help team members up their career ladder instead of dragging them down. They're also there to boost the organization. How do they do this?

By stepping in when teams can't 'fix it' themselves. Make sure to provide a degree of autonomy instead of micromanaging, which proves frustrating for everyone.

Managers also have connections and authority that many team members don't. They can leverage these opportunities to obtain the team's resources to move forward.

9. Make satisfaction a priority

Customers are the top priority. The end-user or the customer is the one who has to use the product or service.

If your organization isn't serving customers what they want, this is often identified through angry phone calls, low-star reviews, or no repeat customers.

Changing your environment to target the customers' needs is crucial. That's what change is all about—figuring out how to empower your employees to better serve the customer.

If you update your environment in the right ways, productivity will grow. This will lead to the customer receiving high-quality products faster. And isn't that what every organization wants to deliver?

10. Emphasize collaboration

You may have had this frustrating experience: you received instructions and started work. Once you were close to signing off on the project, you got an email.

Those were the wrong instructions. That was the wrong angle. You'll have to start from scratch.

To avoid frustrations and roadblocks like this, emphasize collaboration. Stakeholders and developers should meet daily. This will allow for expectations to be adjusted and satisfied as they change.

11. How do you measure success?

What does good look like? This is a question you should be asking yourself every step of the way. If you don't have a target, your team doesn't have anything to shoot for.

Three things should measure success:

  1. The final product.
  2. The process took to get there.
  3. The ability to remain agile.

If your team produces something that performs to expectations and satisfies customers, that's something to celebrate! But how did they get there? If the process was frustrating or haphazard, that's something to check in on.

If your team hurled across the finish line by pulling fourteen-hour days, that's a sign that you need to investigate time management. Did they lack appropriate resources? What roadblocks did they encounter at the beginning they paid for later on?

Agility can be diagnosed by how the team responded to challenges. When confronted with new information, the ability to pivot can make or break the team's performance.

12. Embrace simplicity

What's the simplest way for you to organize teams and meet goals? Sometimes, the simple way is the best. You won't waste time, mental energy, and working hours instituting a complete system that's no better.

If your structure is simple, the team can take mastery of it. They can implement the changes you've started at a management level. Then, the team can organically evolve to meet your requirements.

If your system is simple, it's also easy to update. You can course-correct over time, fine-tuning the delivery and reporting process.

Drawbacks of agile change management

Of course, there are cons associated with every system. Your situation might make agile change management more difficult to achieve. That means it's something to work toward.

If your team is inexperienced, it might be more challenging to implement. Putting a new process to govern a high-stakes project might not be the time or place, depending on your team's experience level.

It's also essential to think about the end product. Agile change management favors customers, which means products. It doesn't always do as well when you're targeting end-users that will be engaging with your services.

It will help if you account for your organization's current structure, too. If it's relatively rigid and traditional, agile change management might be a tough sell.

Luckily, due to COVID, this is the perfect time to institute a new system that helps make sense out of chaos, no matter how traditional your organization might be.

Benefits of agile change management

Agile change is all about trimming the excess, developing lean production, minimizing waste and frustration, and promoting flexibility.

If those sound like pros to you, agile change management might be the ticket! The priority is to detect issues before they become disasters, making it great for high-stakes environments.

It's also faster to commit to deliverable turnaround, solution deployment, and more.

Embracing agile change management

As we all know, these are challenging times. Everything is changing rapidly, and that includes your organization. Managing that change is more comfortable with the right tools.

It might be time to implement something new. From a new tool to a new technique, agile change management could revolutionize your approach!

If you're ready to embrace agile change management, reach out to our sales team and check out the rest of our blog for more change management best practices.