Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A company decides it wants to transform and become more Agile. They hire an experienced Scrum Master consultant to help lead the change. They send 20 people off to Agile training. 2 years later, they are bumbling along with a few Agile teams but by no means have they experienced the large scale transformation they wanted. What happened? Well, one individual cannot transform an organization, you have to build a team. Not just any time, the right team made up of the right people.
Here are the four characteristics of a successful agile change management team
There are powerful people in your organization you absolutely must get on board with your change effort. You will need their “juice”, and you will need to keep them from blocking your efforts.
Getting buy-in from senior line-level managers will make it easier for you to influence their direct reports, and therefore the organization as a whole. This is a technique I call “co-opting the juice.” As a consultant, I have very little juice, but when I can align myself with those who have juice in the organization, and get them to stand behind my efforts, voila, instant juice!
Another reason to get buy in from the powerful people in your organization is to prevent them from blocking your efforts. Sometimes change agents feel its enough to “keep certain people out of the way.” However, the moment they hear of an idea they don’t like or an initiative that could destabilize their organization, they will come in and block it. You don’t want this to happen. You want their input and opinion on items that may affect the performance of their group, so you want to get buy in from them and get them on the “change team”, even if its in an advisory role.
You need people who have seen the movie before and help the change team avoid common mistakes. Usually consultants are brought in to play the role of the expert. This is fine, but you need different kinds of expertise, and you need to recruit internal experts to help everyone understand the industry, the disciplines being affected, and the macro trends inside and outside the organization. On the change team you need deep Agile expertise, deep industry expertise, and deep organizational expertise. That executive assistant that has been around for 20 years through 7 CEOs may be your secret weapon!
No matter what the level of expertise of the members of the team, if they don’t have credibility inside the organization, the efforts will be doomed. I have seen many organizations take the lower performing members inside various organizations and put them on the change team. You can imagine how little the team was able to accomplish, because these were people who were mostly ignored inside their departments. It may seem counter intuitive, but you want to take your BEST managers and leaders and put them on the change team. By best I mean, “The people who incite the kind of fearless devotion from their direct reports that make them happily swim shark infested waters in service to doing the best they can for this manager.” Those are the people for whom the organization will be willing to make tough changes.
You will need enough proven leaders on the team to be able to drive the change process. This is one of the major risks of having a change team consisting of all outside consultants. They may have proven leadership abilities outside the client organization, but they need to be bolstered by internal change agents with a strong vision and a history of making things happen. This may be an opportunity to enlist someone with major leadership potential into a new role that will allow them to rise to the occasion.
Until Next Time,
Stay Agile My Friends
PS, Download my one page guide to Building A Coalition That Can Make Change Happen