Tag Archives: agile development

Increasing Organizational Agility

Increasing Organizational AgilityCompanies seeking to cope with the pace of accelerating change are looking for ways to go faster, and managers in non-technical disciplines have become increasingly infatuated with the Agile Software Development methodology and many are finding ways to adapt parts of it to create agile change or agile marketing or other such things. Sure agility sounds like a good thing and sure agile marketing sounds like it must be better than regular marketing, but is it?

What is agility really?

According to Dictionary.com, agility is:

“The power of moving quickly and easily; nimbleness”
“The ability to think and draw conclusions quickly; intellectual acuity”

When it comes to a business context, I however prefer to define agility a bit more simply, a bit more concisely. Agility, or organizational agility in our case, is:

“How quickly an organization can change directions”

Many people, especially in an organizational or commercial context, get confused between agility and flexibility. They are NOT the same thing.

Agile vs. Flexible

Organizational agility is about how quickly an organization can change directions, while flexibility in an organization gives it the ability to do different things with the same resources, often by purchasing more flexible equipment (at a higher price) or by training people to do more than one thing (resulting in higher training costs) or by hiring people that are skilled at more than one thing (higher salary/benefit costs). Flexibility definitely has its benefits (being able to shift resources among purposes) but it also has costs like the ones mentioned above, and probably more importantly, flexibility usually decreases the efficiency of systems.

Fixedness on the other hand, reduces variability, allows you to focus on the things that do vary and get really good at executing all aspects of a system, including the acquisition of the very best tools and technology to perform each particular function. But, as you can imagine, fixedness has its downside too. If a human resource goes down due to illness or a piece of production equipment breaks, potentially, the whole system grinds to a halt.

So, as you can imagine, increased organizational agility is achieved by establishing the right balance between flexibility and fixedness.

The Organizational Agility Framework

I have captured this principle below in the Organizational Agility Framework:

Organizational Agility Framework

Click to access this framework as a scalable 11″x17″ PDF download
(Tooklit purchasers also get access to the Organizational Agility Worksheet)

The Organizational Agility Framework helps organizations:

  • Adapt to changing environmental conditions
  • Stretch existing resources and the organization itself to do new things in new ways
  • Enable faster change inside the organization and faster adoption by customers
  • Evolve profitable customer relationships to keep the organization strong and vibrant

The Organizational Agility Framework (and corresponding worksheet in the Change Planning Toolkit™) also helps you ask two key questions:

  1. Where can we stretch our existing resources and the organization itself to do new things in new ways?
  2. What should we keep the same to enable faster change inside the organization and faster adoption by customers?

Flexibility vs. Fixedness

Too much Flexibility and it will take too long to make decisions and changes.

Too much Fixedness and you will suffer from organizational rigidity.

Companies seeking increased organizational agility and an improved ability to cope with the accelerating pace of change and ever-evolving customer expectations must seek to strike that optimal balance between fixedness (so you can go fast) and flexibility (so you can quickly adapt to changing customer needs).

Can your organization find the right balance?

More on digital transformation and organizational agility soon, so stay tuned!

In the meantime, please get yourself a copy of Charting Change as a hardcover (or ebook) and get your free downloads from the Change Planning Toolkit™ (or go ahead and purchase a license now).

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.

Conference Wrapup – Change Management 2015

Change Management 2015

Recently I had the opportunity to attend the Association of Change Management Professionals’ (ACMP®) annual conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, titled appropriately Change Management 2015. The event represented a convening of nearly 1,000 change management professionals from around the globe, including countries as geographically dispersed as Qatar and Australia, but with the bulk of the attendees being from the United States, Canada, and Australia.

Nearly 1,000 attendees is a pretty decent size, much bigger than any innovation event that I’ve ever been to, but this larger number of attendees is quite small when you consider the number of people serving in official or unofficial change management roles around the world (either as employees or consultants), or when compared to the number of project managers (estimated at 16.5 million people around the world) and potentially as many as 1.5 million six sigma black belts and green belts sprinkled around the world.

Meanwhile, a couple of the leading training organizations in the change management space have trained just short of 100,000 people in the principles of change management.

If you agree that proactively managing change in organizations is at least as important as the practice of Six Sigma, and potentially as important as project management, that means that as the pace and importance of change continues to gather steam, there could be the need to train between 1.4 million and 16.4 million change management professionals in the next few years.

Professionalizing the Change Management Profession

One of the things that occured at the conference was the highlighting of the ACMP Standard for Change Management™ and the new ACMP Qualified Education Provider™ (QEP™) program. Both of these are steps along the way to building momentum for a change management certification that the ACMP® hopes will become the gold standard for people worldwide to highlight that they have the skills knoweldge, and experience to be recognized as a Certified Change Management Professional™ (CCMP™).

Kicking it off with Dan Pink

The opening keynote at the event was delivered by Dan Pink, author of ‘Drive’ and several other books. Much of his speech was about the societal impacts of the greater availability of information that we enjoy today, and how that will also affect our ability to sell, to influence, and to affect change. In sales, it used to be that the seller nearly always had more information than the buyer, that is rarely the case any more. Because of this shift in information availability, experts are being called on more to be a curator of information than as a way to access information. Dan highlighted how nearly everything that we do in business involves sales and change, yet business schools and MBA programs teach neither sales nor change (they might teach a course on leadership if you’re lucky). And if the ABC’s of sales used to be “Always Be Closing” then the new ABC’s of sales are Attunement, Buoyancy and Clarity.

One interesting personal productivity insight that Dan shared was the idea that asking yourself questions before doing something is a better preparation method than positive self talk. Another was how by reducing your feelings of personal power before going into a conversation can actually increase your effectiveness at getting people to do something. And finally, consider these points related to change:

  • Context is more important than the individual
  • When engaging people for change, it’s very important to use the audience’s language not yours
  • Instead of focusing on changing people’s minds, focus on making it easy for people to do something
  • When information goes down easier it is more likely to stick (rhyming, distillation, etc.)

The IBM Research Perspective

There was a great quote from Hilary Bland of IBM at the conference that illustrates the necessary future direction and importance of change management:

“The ability to anticipate, manage and capitalize on pervasive change is often the difference between market leadership and extinction.”

Between IBM’s research study in 2008 and their followup study in 2014, they’ve seen a shift from organizations managing change on projects to organizations increasingly focusing on enterprise transformation. While the 2008 study examined how organizations manage change and gained practical knowledge, the 2014 study gained insights into the new environment of continuous transformation & the attributes of organizations that are highly successful in managing change.

One of the findings from IBM’s 2014 study was that 74% of respondents are concerned employees are not fully prepared to adapt to an increasingly digital work environment. This sentiment also manifests in the finding that only 20% of organizations successfully deliver on more than 75% of their projects.

And while the digital revolution provides new opportunities to lead change – bottom-up, top-down, sideways – the fact is that 87% of the IBM study respondents stated that not enough focus is currently placed on change management in critical projects and that only 44% of high performance change organizations understand change benefits – Scary!

On final interesting tidbit from the 2014 IBM Research findings – In 2008 only 20% of surveyed companies were using internal resources to manage change projects, but this number is 84% now – highlighting a perceived need for companies to build their own internal change management capability instead of relying on consultants.

Here is a link to the latest IBM study ‘Making Change Work 2014’ – https://ibm.biz/BdRV9y

Gearing Up for Change – A Case Study

Columbia Sportswear shared several learnings from the change management components of their SAP upgrade, including:

  • Success comes not from just saying things multiple times but doing things multiple times
  • We had to stress that company success is determined by the quality of and access to data
  • Initially we were given a tiny training budget, so we went out and got data to build support for an increase
  • We used learnings from a previous failure to build support for our new approach
  • Our first steps were to capture tribal knowledge, map processes, and write standard operating procedures (SOP’s)
  • We then trained execs in our change methodology and did monthly change surveys to
  • We won support from senior management to bring in long term temporary employees to free up our super users to participate in the project. This was a priority!
  • Focus was key! The company had to say “We’re going to do this upgrade, make/sell products, and nothing else!” – and then of course remind people…
  • We had to get creative in our communications, both in terms of building new communication channels and creative messaging, but also we had to work really hard not to talk about the system being changed, but instead focus on how this was a company evolution.

The Culture Question

There were several good culture questions and comments that came up from various sessions, including:

  • When it comes to culture change, you have to define which parts of the culture you’re going to retain too.
  • Findings from IBM’s study on making change work… 1. Lead at all levels 2. Make change matter 3. Build the muscle
  • People at IBM got social really fast around the topic of change because managers were looking at profiles and who was contributing
  • Engagement = Communication + Co-creation
  • Successful change efforts blend effective approaches to the task side and the people side
  • Pace of change is both a driver for change management and a resistor
  • Accountability key to embedding your change into normal operations
  • People hate being off plan. They will want to tell people about the green behind the red. Consider only allowing people time with the boss to discuss yellow/red projects and how the boss can help, instead of making people feel like they have to be green.
  • When change saturation exists, consider having cross-functional resource conversations to look for solutions.
  • “Change has to start by doing less” -Lisa Bodell
  • “Change Leaders should keep these three things in mind – Ask killer questions, Reverse assumptions, and Kill a stupid rule” – Lisa Bodell

Learning as it Relates to Change

There was a great session at the Conference with Christine Cox, PhD. looking at breakthroughs in organizational learning. Some of the key takeaways included:

  • People who multitask (or who sit next to multitaskers during lectures) exhibit lower comprehension
  • Memory can be improved by relating learning to yourself
  • To harness emotion for better learning you want to tap into people’s emotions without overactivating them
  • People strongly remember moments where they made connections and generated those connections or insight
  • Learning is also increased when the right social elements are added
  • Give people opportunity to share what they’ve learned and reflect on its self-relevance
  • Spacing is also important for learning. No cramming!
  • 12 hour learning spacing that includes a night’s sleep helps comprehension more than 12 hours of spacing during waking hours
  • Instructional design should perhaps shift from content delivery to creating the space for insight
  • Incorporating some forms of generation into the learning situation – like polls, guided reflection, writing answers, explaining to another, hearing from another – can increase retention

All Trains Change for Change

Carmen Bianco, the President of the Manhattan Transit Authority (MTA) discussed how our world is changing and how the MTA has to focus on technology, strategy and culture. One of the big questions the MTA is grapplin with is:

How can we get more technology underground so that we can get more train cars per hour moving through the system?

The MTA is ordering 1,000 new train cars and growth is causing them to explore how they can change their culture to be more customer-focused and how they can move more train cars per hour and how they can get more people into each train car. Carmen’s initial focus on culture change has been on top executives so that the middle of the organization knows they’re serious. For change to filter all of the way down, the alignment and commitment has to work its way down. Carmen feels that if he can get everyone on his team to be that good boss, that’s a home run because it effects countless numbers of people. Carmen has also instituted no meeting days at MTA where he requires managers to get out with their employees and then do a debrief with him at the end of the day.

Carmen spoke about the challenge they face with 44% of executives and 41% of operating supervisors becoming pension eligible soon. The potential retirement of 44% of managers next year is both a risk and an opportunity to culture change progress. He spoke about how just when it seemed like he wasn’t changing the culture, the super storm came and provided a galvanizing opportunity. He marveled as he watched the MTA perform with the customer in mind (even sacrificing sleep). He feels blessed to have a phenomenal group of employees who have come up with ideas like FastTrack, where we had 900 employees working in the same area. At first citizens and the media ridiculed the idea, but now people are asking ‘When are you bringing this to my neighborhood?’ The creation of FastTrack reminded me of that scene in the Apollo 13 movie. It’s a good idea to keep that Apollo 13 scene ‘What do you have?’ in mind for constraint-focused brainstorming.

A Whirlwind Tour of Change

The Nike and Peoplefirm session highlighted the importance of communication strategies and creativity in change. PG&E and BeingFirst highlighted how building a change capability within an organization takes time (within PG&E it has taken 2 1/2 years just to START). Year 1 at PG&E may have focused on a lot of change leadership training, but year 2 has to be more about demonstrating results. An internal change group can act as middleware translator between consultants and the organization on a range of projects. Change saturation was discussed many times at the conference, and PG&E talked about how they monitor it at a workgroup level, monitoring what initiatives are effecting different workgroups. In the Marriott session it was highlighted that the most used change tools at Marriott include change overview, stakeholder analysis and communication plan. Chris Churchill and Paul O’Keeffe of Accenture spoke about Agile Change Management and the importance of integrating your change process into your Aigle process, including your task wall or kanban wall process.

Finally, closing keynote speaker Lisa Bodell offered these Eight Statements for Change that she advises organizations work to answer in the affirmative:

  1. People in our organization actively think about pushing boundaries and use trends
  2. Our employees are comfortable asking provocative questions
  3. People think on their feet
  4. People see it through
  5. We are Looking forward 5-10 years
  6. We constantly push for continual improvement
  7. We purposefully hire diverse teams
  8. We look at adjacencies and distant companies and apply best practices

The conference definitely was a whirlwind, and I’d like to thank the Change Management 2015 conference organizers for inviting me to cover the event for the Innovation Excellence audience. Hopefully they’ll have me back as a speaker next year at Change Management 2016 in Grapevine, Texas.

In 2016 my new change management content site will be in full swing and my second book for Palgrave Macmillan (@PalgraveBiz) comes out in January 2016 to highlight the best practices and next practices of organizational change and introduces the new collaborative, visual change planning toolkit. I’ve got some great guest experts lined up as contributors and am finalizing the final few sponsors and contributors in the next couple of months (along with the manuscript), so stay tuned!

Accelerate your change and transformation success

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.

Agile Change Management is Coming

Agile Change Management

How fast is your organization capable of changing to continue to remain relevant and successful in the marketplace?

The world is changing at an accelerating pace as new technologies are discovered, developed, released and adopted by consumers faster than ever before. At the same time companies are rising to global scale faster and large, successful companies are disappearing faster too.

In this new reality that we all face, organizations of all types are going to need to:

  • Change how they change
  • Increase their organizational agility
  • Increase the flexibility of the organization
  • Become capable of continuous change
  • Inhibit the appearance and/or growth of change gaps that can doom your company

It is because of this tidal wave of change and a recognition that there is a need in the marketplace for more human change processes and tools that make change seem less overwhelming, that my next book for Palgrave Macmillan will focus on the best practices and next practices of organizational change (aka change management), and I’ve developed a new collaborative, visual change planning toolkit to go with it (but more about that later).

One way to do all of the items in the bulleted list above is to take more of an agile approach to change, to adopt some of the values and principles of the Agile Software Development methodology and use those to create a set of what could be described as Agile behaviors within the organization. If you are not familiar with the Agile Software Development methodology, I have included below the Agile Software Development Manifesto from http://agilemanifesto.org that details the values and principles of Agile Software Development. As you read through the manifesto I hope you’ll see that the values and principles can easily be applied to other endeavors outside of software development, whether that might in the project management discipline of your organization, or within your larger change initiatives.

Manifesto for Agile Software Development

We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it.

Through this work we have come to value:

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  2. Working software over comprehensive documentation
  3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  4. Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items in bold more.

Principles behind the Agile Manifesto

We follow these principles:

  • Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
  • Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
  • Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
  • Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
  • Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
  • The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
  • Working software is the primary measure of progress.
  • Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  • Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
  • Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.
  • The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
  • At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

Agile and Constant Change


You will see in FIGURE 1 that constant change sits at the center, Agile Values providing the initial direction for an organization with a committed goal of becoming more agile. Radiating out from Agile Values as we pursue success in coping with constant change will be our Agile Principles. But, ultimately we can’t live our values or follow our principles if we don’t exhibit behaviors that personify those values and principles. Unless our organizations begin to behave in a more agile way then the potential of truly becoming more agile will remain just words, and go largely unfulfilled.

It is because of the challenge of behaving in a new way that I encourage all of your to make a move towards a formal pursuit of organizational agility. To help you in this pursuit, I will soon be releasing my brand new collaborative, visual change planning toolkit for companies to use on their own (with free training for a select few who agree to use it and document their experience for the book). In addition I will be launching separate training for consultants so they can use the tools with clients in their change management and project management practices. Please register your interest here.

Using this new set of change planning and execution tools and processes will not only make change seem less overwhelming, but it will also help you build alignment behind your effort, help you work through as a group how to LITERALLY all get on the same page for change, and create a more agile organization as adoption of the tools spreads.

Stay tuned for more great change content coming soon!

In the meantime, check out the different ways to get involved.

Accelerate your change and transformation success

SPECIAL BONUS: You can now access my latest webinar ‘Innovation is All About Change’ compliments of CoDev with passcode 1515 (link expired)

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.