Agile Change Management

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Enterprise change management is becoming an issue we need answers for. I am using the word enterprise to represent the total view of change taking place in an organisation.

I have been running lots of workshops over the last few weeks to help clients manage the big changes they want to happen this year. Each workshop brings up the same problems:

  1. We are already doing a lot of change, so how do we fit this one in as well?
  2. Our staff feel that the day job is getting lost in amongst all the new things they are asked to do, so how do we help them cope?
  3. How do we involve staff to manage change for themselves and create a volume of people to manage change much greater than we could afford if we were relying on external consultants?

If these are your concerns, read on.

1. High volumes of change

Fitting in yet more change means going further than having a portfolio where all in progress, planned and potential ideas are captured. It requires active management and a willingness to use what the portfolio is telling you.

Active management means prioritising initiatives using pre-defined criteria to identify which of all the possibilities are the most worthwhile. This value is different for every organisation so draw out the factors that are relevant to your strategic objectives:

  • Enhances customer service
  • Delivers cost efficiencies
  • Enhances reputation for innovation and being a market leader
  • Increase staff engagement and improves staff retention
  • Meets legal and regulatory requirements
  • Must be done because this initiative enables other things to be done as a result if it’s completion

But this prioritisation doesn’t work unless it is accompanied by strong leadership, specifically a willingness to limit the number of things underway at any one time. Without a limit, everyone affected does a little bit of work on each initiative before stopping to move onto something else. With this style of work so much time is wasted trying to remember where you had got to last time that the productivity curve looks like this

Meanwhile the mental health cost of trying to do everything at once and feeling as if you never finish anything is very high.

2. Not enough emphasis on the day job

Even if you sort out your management of multiple issues, you still have to address the balance between BAU and change. Too often in change management we forget that the reason people do the jobs they do is because they enjoy them:

  • Someone working in a call centre enjoys solving customer problems and feeling like they have improved the situation for a customer. The payback for hard work is when a customer says thanks, that has really helped me.
  • Teachers came into teaching to teach children, not spend a lot of time redesigning how they teach.
  • Sales teams live to sell, and are not inspired by learning new sales based CRMs and redesigning their sales processes.

As a change professional I have to remind myself that my passion for change is not the main motivation of those I am asking to change. I think we must build in many more opportunities to ask how the change can be incorporated into what already happens instead of treating it as a completely new way of working. I think this requires a mindset of celebration of what is already being achieved and not implying (as we too often do) that the change is needed because the current ways of working are so bad. Edgar Schein incorporated “honour the past” into his Transition Model for a reason! I think those of us in change unintentionally allow our enthusiasm for the new to denigrate the current situation which is very demotivating for those working long hours to keep things moving.

3. Increase capacity for change

There is so much change taking place that I think my role as a change professional is changing. My job is shifting away from scoping and planning change initiatives. My new role is to transfer my knowledge and experience to build the capability in others:

  • Support senior leaders to become effective sponsors.
  • Help middle management plans resource change initiatives in their area of the business.
  • Help staff lead themselves into new ways of working by giving them the tools to understand the change, design and practice new ways offering and embed these new ways in their responsibilities, their processes and their performance measures.


I think it is an exciting time to be involved in change management but as our profession develops, my advice is keep developing your knowledge. Book yourself on training courses, go to conferences, attend webinars and read widely and think deeply. As you have read this blog you are clearly on this personal development path, so thank you. It’s good to have you in my community of practice.