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Agile Change Management - Book Review

1 February 2017
Dr. Moria Levy
book cover

"Agile Change Management: A Practical Framework for Successful Change Planning and Implementation" is a book by Melanie Franklin, a seasoned expert with over two decades of experience in the field. She has been a consultant, guiding organizations through change processes and as a researcher.

 

Melanie Franklin has extensive change management experience, particularly within large or perhaps massive organizations. Her approach is highly organized and comprehensive.

 

The book addresses the following key topics:

  1. Principles of Leading Continuous Change

  2. Roadmap: A Comprehensive Work Plan

  3. Understanding Business Needs

  4. Implementing the Initial Modification and Subsequent Rounds

  5. Managing Communication

  6. Creating a Supportive Environment

 

While it may be debatable whether the entire concept presented applies to small organizations or to changes that are not on a massive scale, there is no doubt that even smaller organizations and less substantial changes can benefit significantly from the methods and tips provided. I would certainly recommend it.

 

Principles of Leading Continuous Change

The foundational concept underpinning the book is agile activity and evaluating changes. This approach offers numerous benefits:

  •  Minimizing Extensive Planning: By avoiding excessive planning, which might require modifications later due to the inability to predict every detail, we can plan stages closer to them. This allows for more refined planning and reduces the risk of wasted effort.

  • Efficient Resource Allocation: By bypassing overinvestment in the planning stage, we can expedite action and accomplish tasks more swiftly.

  • Closer Alignment of Implementation and Planning: Aligning the timing of change implementation with its planning phase makes the implementation smoother, especially when those involved are active partners in the planning.

  • Enhanced ROI: Implementing changes sooner, even partially, can lead to a higher return on investment (ROI).

 

Guiding principles for leading continuous changes include:

  1.  Recognizing Time Constraints: Acknowledge the existence of time constraints and the necessity to complete the change within a specified timeframe. Failure to meet deadlines can undermine the essence and advantages of the change.

  2. Evolution of Change Details: Understand that change details can evolve. Each stage is planned with the notion of being "good enough" because it's impossible to predict everything perfectly in advance.

  3. Alignment with Organizational Needs: Ensure the change aligns closely with the organization's business needs. This crucial principle is sometimes overlooked and warrants a dedicated chapter.

  4. Collaborative Engagement: Collaborate extensively with a diverse group of partners, especially those directly impacted by the change. Involve them in the process, as those who need to change should actively participate. This principle also merits its dedicated chapter.

  5. Balanced Resource Allocation: Maintain an appropriate balance in allocating time and resources throughout the change process. Avoid giving the majority of resources solely to the initial stages.

 

Roadmap: A Comprehensive Work Plan

Why is a comprehensive work plan necessary?

  •  It fosters confidence in the process among partners.

  • It enhances ROI (Return on Investment) by prioritizing critical elements at each stage (MOSCOW).

  • It elevates the quality of the outcomes.

 

A change management work plan consists of the following components:

  1. Processes: These encompass a series of tasks that, when completed, lead to the realization of the desired change. 

  2. Tips and Insights: These offer recommendations on effectively executing some of the processes above to ensure success (e.g., strategies for engaging individuals in the process).

  3. Document Templates: These facilitate uniform and efficient management of the change process (e.g., standardized letter formats).

  4. Guidelines for Proper Template Usage: Instructions for correctly utilizing document templates.

  5. Roles and Responsibilities: Define the roles of key individuals as active partners in the change management process.

  6. Questionnaires for Identifying Key Stakeholders: These aid in identifying and selecting the relevant officials involved in the process.

  7. Checklists: An invaluable tool for ensuring the completion of tasks defined within the processes. There are two recommended checklists: assessing readiness at the outset of a topic and reviewing the conclusion of a function (confirmation of completed tasks).

  8. Success Criteria: These establish expectations regarding what constitutes successful completion of the processes.

 

Key Highlights:

  • Developing the work plan should align with the organization's values and quality system.

  • The work plan should focus on the "what" rather than the "how."

  • The work plan should delineate boundaries and objectives.

  • It must be practical and attainable.

  • The work plan should be tailored to the organization and its specific requirements.

 

Understanding Business Needs

Before diving into change management planning, whether through simple or sophisticated methods, it's crucial to remember that the endeavor should bring tangible organizational business value and benefit to both the organization and its employees; otherwise, it may not be worthwhile. Furthermore, as every change initiative tends to provoke fear and objections, it's imperative not only to ensure business value but also that it holds sufficient significance to justify its costs.

 

To effectively define business needs, it's essential to establish the following:

  1.  Desired Improvements: Clearly articulate the improvements you aim to achieve and the benefits that can be derived from implementing these improvements.

  2. Quality Threshold: Specify the level of quality required for an achievement to be recognized.

  3. Requirements: Identify requirements that outline the desired course of action, encompassing processes, information, systems, and people.

 

Ensuring these business needs align with the overarching work plan described above is equally important. Prioritize these needs in each phase and select the most appropriate for handling based on their importance and feasibility.

 

The book provides an array of tools to assist in defining business needs, including:

  1.  Motivational Questionnaires for Change

  2. Mapping Support Levels for Change

  3. 5 WHYS for Analyzing Change Benefits

  4. Benefits Decomposition Using Trees

  5. Dependency Mapping Between Benefits

  6. Process Mapping

  7. Tree Charts for Breaking Down Requirements for Specific Processes, Information, Systems, and People

  8. Scenario Mapping (for preparing for expected and unexpected scenarios)

  9. Heat Maps for Monitoring Affected Teams at Various Levels

  10. Moscow-Based Prioritization Lists (Must, Should, Could, Want)

 

The author recommends employing a storytelling technique when defining needs and communicating them. Crafting a narrative that illustrates the change, its driving factors, advantages, and the subsequent course of action can effectively convey the essence of the change initiative.

 

Implementing the Initial Modification and Subsequent Rounds

The proposed concept centers around iterative change, initiating the first round of change and subsequent iterations. This iterative approach fosters incremental successes and motivates employees to persist.

 

For each iteration, it is imperative to define the following:

  • Agreed Time Frame: At each stage, prioritize what is most essential to achieve and clearly outline the agreed-upon time frame.

  • Change Description: This includes the vision, differentiation, expected deliverables, constraints, and links to other activities.

  • Desired Result: Specify the intended achievement, which can be substantial.

  • Progress Stages: Break down the progress into stages:

    - Initial 10-20%: Identify achieved milestones and what remains to be accomplished.

    - Mid-stage 60%+: Develop detailed change plans for the current phase.

    - Final 10-20%: Stabilize changes in the organizational environment and celebrate the achieved results.

  • Change Management Plan: Outline the elements of the change management plan, including timeframes, processes, governance, resources, assumptions, and constraints.

  • Communication Plan: Establish a communication strategy.

 

Key Highlights:

  •  In each iteration, it is crucial to actively seek feedback and listen attentively to others to leverage the unfolding change effectively.

  • Maintaining a balance in each iteration ensures the change is manageable for the organization's ongoing operations and progress. In each iteration, consider adding new activities while phasing out old actions that are no longer relevant to the new concept.

 

Determining the end of an iteration can often be discerned through observation. When the organization no longer treats it as a change, it becomes evident that it has been fully implemented.

 

Managing Communication

Managing change should prioritize those affected, necessitating a shift in their current behaviors and practices.

 

Before considering whom to collaborate with on the change, how individuals will be influenced, and their potential reactions, the author strongly recommends initiating a preliminary self-assessment of our behaviors and motivations as change leaders. Understanding our strengths, weaknesses, and preferred work styles is essential, which may encompass a penchant for orderliness and an intolerance for delay, among other traits. This self-examination extends to our commitment to change leadership and our capacity to inspire others through self-control, influencing abilities, trustworthiness, and adaptability when necessary. Such introspection can significantly enhance our ability to manage relationships with others, particularly those with whom we will collaborate on the change process.

 

The author also advocates for personal development efforts to enhance active listening skills and foster genuine communication with others.

 

Establishing productive working relationships with others involves:

  1.  Identifying Suitable Partners: Determine the right individuals to collaborate with during the change process. This includes mapping the level of interaction and joint effort required, which varies based on the change's impact. Additionally, assess existing relationships rooted in shared goals, trust, and natural cooperation, whether due to professional or geographic proximity.

  2. Creating Partner Awareness: Ensure your collaborators know the value you bring to the table and the significance of the collaborative relationship.

  3. Facilitating Team Connections: Encourage connections between individuals to promote teamwork and collaboration within the context of the change initiative.

 

Creating a Supportive Environment

A supportive environment plays a crucial role in the successful implementation of change.

 

First and foremost, a change that aligns with the existing culture is more likely to be embraced and receive support during its implementation.

 

So, how do we go about creating an environment that fosters change?

  •  We need to communicate clear and precise messages regarding the expected outcomes.

  • Advance decisions on how change management decisions will be made and establish conflict resolution mechanisms.

  • For changes requiring substantial resources, establish criteria to measure partners' contributions as part of their performance evaluations.

  • Provide people with a sense of security, enabling them to overcome their natural resistance to change and express any concerns they may have.

  • Cultivate an environment that empowers individuals to initiate and sustain the change process, even in the face of difficulties. This can be achieved through various means, such as highlighting the benefits, reinforcing the context of success surrounding the change, maintaining a positive attitude during challenges, and fostering optimism.

  • Build a stable environment that ensures the change becomes a lasting transformation rather than a one-time effort that fades as energy levels diminish.

  • Motivate individuals to engage in the change by offering meaning, independence, and opportunities to showcase their skills—link motivation to clear goals and enable the creation of tangible achievements.

 

It's no coincidence that this is the concluding chapter. While you can construct a comprehensive work plan, and define needs, rotations, and connections, the organizational culture and the emotional approach to change management can make all the difference.

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