Agile Adoption and Organizational Change Management
In my last post, we began our discussion of Agile Change Management by discussing ADKAR, an organizational change model. In this post, we will continue with a discussion of (organizational) change program management. (Note: our discussion is strictly about organizational change management and will not include other kinds of change management.)
What is change program management?
The change program articulates the strategy used to implement the desired change. Change program management refers to the activities used to define, monitor, and control the change program. Change models are applied within the change program. Using ADKAR as an example, we might specify within our change program how employees will migrate through the ADKAR phases and keep track of when they experience which trainings and on-the-job experiences.
At 10,000 feet, change program management and regular ol’ garden variety program management look pretty much the same: move from the current state to some desired future state without leaving a big mess. The more the word “change” grows in importance, the more that the the desired future state includes enduring changes in human behavior and attitudes. For example, if our program was to upgrade behind-the-scenes technology, behavior may not be expected to change and change management would be unnecessary. However, if our project was to upgrade our ERP system and operating procedures for end users were expected to change, change management should be part of the program plan. Finally, if the objective of the program is to increase job satisfaction, the entire program purpose would be attitude and behavior changes and change management would be of paramount importance.
Since the principal target of most Agile adoption programs are software development practices, people sometimes presume that the nature of the change will be comparable to previous IT or software engineering changes such as adopting a new CASE platform or changes in procedures specified by a new software development methodology. Typically, the change management requirements of such programs can be adequately handled by properly targeted technical or procedural training. Don’t make that mistake. Although software tools and new procedures may be in the scope of the Agile adoption program, much more important will be significant changes in what often are deeply ingrained behaviors and attitudes. Consequently, proper change management is the key to success.
The Satir change model
It’s time to introduce another change model.
The Satir change model introduced by Virginia Satir is a model that describes the discrete stages of the change process from a psychological perspective. Since its introduction, it has been used by others to represent the organizational change process. We will use the model to represent the mission of change program management.
As we see illustrated below, we start with the status quo at a particular performance level. We introduce a change, which disrupts the status quo. Performance abruptly degrades and stabilizes at a lower level during a period of uncertainty. The transition from uncertainty to higher performance begins, as the subject integrates (accepts, adopts, learns) the changes. Performance stabilizes and remains at a higher level — the intended effect of the change. This describes the change process of a successful change initiative.
Although disruption of the status quo results in temporary performance loss, if the change initiative is successful, you will gain it all back plus more.
The purpose of change program management (and change management in general) is not to escape performance disruption, which is presumed impossible, but to minimize disruption, avoid catastrophic failure, and assure significant and enduring performance gains.
The diagonally-filled region in the illustration below represents the range of potential successful change process outcomes. The best case scenario is the one where the degree and duration of disruption are minimized, while the degree of enduring performance improvement is maximized. In theory things could be better but in practice it’s not believed possible. The worst case scenario shows the maximum tolerance for the degree and duration of performance disruption and the minimum acceptable long term performance gain. It’s possible for the outcome to be worse but then the change initiative will be deemed a failure.
The objective of the change program management is to keep the change initiative outcome within an acceptable range and as close to the best case scenario as possible.
Change program management is tricky
Program management is trickier for change initiatives than for other kinds of programs. Although we can model the change process and objective, it’s nearly impossible to know beforehand how long it will take to migrate through the different steps and how much performance degradation will occur. Therefore it’s difficult to know precisely how to structure the program to assure its adequacy. The root cause of this greater difficulty is the inherent uncertainty of change initiatives. Even though we deliberately inject uncertainty into the organization, it does not follow that we can anticipate all which might then occur, including unintended side effects. As we have previously discussed, an uncertain state is inherently unpredictable.
The status quo represents a dynamic equilibrium within the organization whereby individuals participating in groups mutually reinforce persistence in behavior and expectations. The change catalyst must disturb this equilibrium if a change in the status quo is to be achieved. However, once destabilized, just like any other complex system, it will be impossible to predict exactly where and when dynamic equilibrium will be restored.
In a later post, we will discuss how Agile methods are exceptionally well-suited to help manage through the inherent uncertainty of change initiatives.
A final note on the Satir change model
In this post I have used the Satir change model to represent the change process for any change initiative. In my earlier post I used the ADKAR change model to provide a prescriptive approach for managing successfully through an Agile adoption (change) program. Although I have not done so in this post, the Satir change model may also be used in a prescriptive manner to anticipate the needs of individuals migrating through change. See this post by Steven Smith for one excellent example.