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Agile for Change Management: 5 Principles to Help Your Digital Transformation Succeed

Digital transformation can be a daunting change at all levels of an organization. It’s large, complex, and spans multiple systems and departments. Couple this with the age-old statistic that 70% of organizational change initiatives fail and you may just want to run for the hills. Fear not, there is a light at the end of the tunnel and it’s called effective change management.

Many digital transformation initiatives fail because there is no change management strategy in place, let alone an effective one. That’s where an agile approach to change management comes in.

What is change management?

Change management is quite simply a proactive approach to managing change in an organization’s processes, goals, or technologies. The purpose is not only to affect and control change but also to help staff and stakeholders adapt to these changes.

What is agile?

In short, agile is a project management approach that breaks down projects into short, iterative stages known as sprints with the assumption that needs and goals will change throughout the process. You have most likely heard of agile as it relates to software development since its initial advocates were software developers, though its approach has rapidly spread to all types and parts of organizations in recent years. Agile is based on four key values:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Progress over perfection
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

Five principles of agile for digital transformation

Based on the fundamental approaches, goals, and four values of agile, let’s examine five of the twelve key principles of the Agile Manifesto that you can use to make sure your digital transformation and process for change management are a success.

1. Deliver value early and continuously

Instead of focusing solely on milestones or cost, focus on the value-added to your staff or your external stakeholders—this will allow you to prioritize high-value activities. Deliver these activities early and continuously to allow for immediate feedback and to minimize the risk of investing large portions of your budget into unproven solutions.

2. Take an iterative approach

In today’s fast-paced and rapidly evolving digital environment taking an iterative approach is key. It’s difficult to know what the market landscape will look like 3–5 years down the road. So, set a long-term vision, outline the steps you think will get you there based on what you know now, and start working on the first project. This will allow you to adapt to emerging trends and be nimble when facing unseen barriers—both keys to success during a digital transformation.

3. Maximize results with a sustainable pace

Working in short, iterative sprints will allow you to show value and return-on-investment incrementally over time. This will help build up your team’s confidence and create a culture of ongoing improvement and learning. This continual cycle of buy-in from your team will help keep your digital transformation from stalling due to burnout, which frequently occurs during a typical heavy-phased approach.

4. Welcome changing goals and plans, even late in the game

Everything changes, including your staff, your funding, your organizational goals, and the digital landscape. Welcoming these changes, and establishing a consistent feedback loop, is important to the success of your organization’s digital transformation. It is easy to accommodate changes and feedback while working with an agile methodology due to the iterative nature of the work. Accommodating these changes and feedback will not only help keep your teams and stakeholders engaged and motivated, but it will also lead to a better, continually improving digital transformation.

5. Build project teams that are representative

Your core digital transformation team should consist of people from across your organization’s major departments, being sure to include individuals with varying skill sets and perspectives. Digital transformation touches every aspect of an organization, and traditional organizational silos will impede your progress. To guard against this siloing you need to bring a  diverse team with new ideas and solutions to the table.

Digital transformation can be daunting, but once you have a strategy and a high-level plan in place, agile project management can help you align your team, handle uncertainty and adapt to changing circumstances.  

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