The global pandemic has brought more change to the world in a couple of months than in the decade before. Change Management has become essential in a world with organizations fighting for their existence. Change and Change Management need to be quick and agile in today’s rapid and fast changing environment. Long processes and timelines with only mediocre successes are not enough to prevail in transforming markets. So, the practice of Change Management must adapt itself as well.

Organizational change management (OCM) often follows a certain OCM model (e.g., Lippitt-Knoster, Kotter 8 Steps Model, ADKAR) and is in best case aligned to the project plan. Change Management plans are aligned with the project plan at the beginning and then measures are conducted accordingly. However, the rate of change has accelerated in the last decade and traditional approaches do not meet the requirements of recent transformations. Agile techniques are the most common project approaches today. But can change management be agile? What does it mean for practicing change management, and can it be successful? – Let’s investigate this further.

What does “agile” mean?

Agile project management has replaced the traditional approach when it comes to planning and executing projects in organizations. Since the agile approach has its roots in software development, it has, especially in this area, prevailed against traditional project management approaches. As an iterative development methodology, agile project management focuses on continuous communication and feedback, adapting to change and changing requirements and as a result developing a customer-oriented product. With the Agile manifesto and its 12 principles, agile is not only a methodology, but also a mindset.

Introduction organizational change management (OCM)

Organizations often commit to projects that aim at handling challenges, improving performance, or adapting to changing external or internal factors, subsequently triggering a change in the way organizations work and think OCM deals with the people side of change and is key for companies to succeed and grow. With a structured process and the respective tools, change management enables people to achieve the desired outcome of transformation projects.

What does it mean when OCM becomes agile?

On the operational level, the change management team needs to be closely integrated with the functional experts on a project. It is necessary that the OCM team continuously conveys the incremental changes to the affected stakeholders. So, a basic understanding of the business and functional backgrounds is a must for the team in order to identify the correct change measures for all stakeholder groups.

The change management team also needs to be closely involved on the strategic level. Agile change management relies on the buy-in and very active and visible involvement of sponsors, the leadership team and project management. Their early involvement, engagement and commitment is key to successful agility in change management.

In general, the triangular relationship between change management, project team and management incl. sponsors is crucial to enable agile OCM. A consistent and transparent communication between all parties allows to identify stakeholder needs and define appropriate change measures.

Agile OCM – The key to successful transformations

Implementing agile practices in change management to support the fast-changing business environment, is key for a stakeholder- and customer-oriented transformation initiative. It requires effort and the close integration of all levels within the project. Moreover, a test-and-learn approach leads to an increased need in proactive and coordinated continuous communication to efficiently meet the needs of different stakeholder groups and improve their change experience. As a result, the commitment and engagement for a transformation initiative increases and so does the probability of a successful transformation. Thus, the successful integration of agile practices into Organizational Change Management enables companies to cope with more complex changes and higher volumes of change.

Conclusion

The global pandemic contributed to the speed of change in today’s business environment. Processes change, business models need to be reinvented and new technologies are emerging. Agile OCM is a must for dealing with these developments successfully. Change Management needs to be closely involved on the operational level as well as the strategic level to enable a successful transformation and truly contribute to a positive User Experience and successful transformation.

We would like to thank Mara Müller for her valuable contribution to this article.

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