Knowledge hub
Dec 20, 2023

Agile Change Management

Hi, I’m Abram, pleasure to meet you! Covid made me, world traveler, sit at home. Adventure called in 2022, to move from the Netherlands to the South of France. A climate change. To learn more about behavior patterns of the French and digital engineering working culture. My trade is organization and behavior, which amounts to helping groups to collaborate towards meaningful outcomes. People in todays’ companies all too often assume collaboration and meaningful outcomes will be the result of written processes, job titles and common tooling.

The costs of group understanding, collaboration and attaining meaningful outcomes have gone up. I call this an increasing social debt, much like technical debt but then on the people side of work.

  1. The work context shifts, which makes ‘doing a good job’ harder to follow. Many organizations are reorganizing and adjusting how people collaborate and how jobs are defined. With words such as Lean, Agile and otherwise, new roles and multidisciplinary teams emerge. Bosses won’t tell you anymore what to do, it’s something to figure out from the vision and team mission.
  2. How people collaborate shifts to home and online. Listening, understanding, agreeing, deciding are now more isolated moments rather than a group process of people sitting around a canteen or meeting table. Simultaneously, our individualist society is high on technology so attention shifts more rapidly to phone, email, kids, work colleague 1, team x etc. A day can go by without meaningful collaboration and lots of frustrated attempts in production. “They just don’t get it”.
  3. The nature of work is shifting for years. People produce ideas, words, agendas, PowerPoints and code, more often than not a day comes to an end without a tangible outcome to point to. Most of the work is in your head. Which makes collective imagination and attention more important.

And I am part of these shifts. Have you noticed how much more difficult it is to keep a yearly planned strategy alive? Heck, it’s even hard to go from meeting to meeting and see people come back on points made last week in previous conversations. And all the while, the amount of paperwork with agreements, processes, meeting times seems to have gone up.

Much of the time spent on working together is wasteful, needs constant repetition, is not very efficient, or effective. We can do better, and here is how:

  1. Strong middle management positions, however you call the role. Release Train Engineer, Lean Portfolio Management, Manager, Vice President etc. The roles that connect top down strategic intent with bottom up operations. The behavior of these roles needs to allow inclusion, intrinsic motivation of knowledge workers, and fostering group collaboration.
  2. Factor in the social aspects of collaboration. Train, coach, support people in what is assumed to be ‘normal’: listening, understanding, (dis)agreeing, decision making. Before relationships sink. Or to make relationships float your business boat again.
  3. I’m talking investment in learning to collaborate. Having a standard for how to conduct a proper meeting isn’t enough when it’s just on paper. A process for creating a prioritized product backlog doesn’t mean much if the Product Owner doesn’t know how to behave with stakeholders and teams.
  4. Re-align structures and processes of the organization, around value. Experimenting with clear accountabilities, and yes, commonly agreed and understood processes. That takes more time than scaling Agility in a two-day course and then ramping up with 100 people in another month. It takes HR/company gatekeepers and C-level leaders to be involved in the design of rewiring operations and then to actively sponsor the new direction. Surface level Lean-Agile change creates a lot of confusion and double matrixed organizations with more instead of less people talking about the job to be done.

A people manager who actually still is a tech component owner. Next to a Product Owner and Scrum Master. A T-shaped business analyst who didn’t sign up for the T and has Product Owner ambitions. A Project Manager who needs to bring results home and drives this via weekly updates on story point level. Etc. all around the people doing the work. Well, that is if you can understand how the business earns money, and what activities are decisive in the creation process.

A training for change agents in complex landscape

We help you navigate. We offer patterns and guide your thinking on several key areas of getting work done effectively, including social dynamics.
To move from noisy concepts, process orders and multiple loosely coupled skills which undoubtedly you acquired, to an owned direction in Lean-Agile change. You can join alone or as group of middle managers & change agents.

We reserved a physical space in Amsterdam. To train, coach and make sense together with two internationally experienced and grounded people. With Tanja van Dijk, Abram Janse, and hosted by Gladwell Academy.

Written by Abram Janse, Certified IC Agile coach trainer