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Part II: How to Manage Change in an Agile Environment?

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This is the follow-up of our first part.

We have seen the importance of the Vision and Mission inside a company. There are more and more evidence to prove this crucial point. Moreover, should the company hire more and more Y-generation workers, most of Millennials define a successful career as a work with a sense of meaning. It’s not about money, it’s about connections, giving to others and purpose.

They want to make an impact in their work “whatever that means” Simon Sinek said, not without a sense of irony, I could not stress this requirement enough.

According to Kotter, when you have established a sense of urgency, you should create a forming coalition. Even though he later updated his approach to remove the sequential ways and did involve a more concurrent attitude, the Vision is supposedly created after the Sense of Urgency.

Kotter worked in important organizations where large guiding coalitions were set up. With this perspective, it is understandable to develop large tentacles and raise an army. In smaller organizations, the Vision and the Sense of Urgency are much more correlated.

A more Agile way is to bring quick delivery as fast as possible, including a Change delivery.

When an organization is building up a Sense of Urgency, it is already a market position itself. Ergo, the Vision will be based on the Sense of Urgency statement in a very close step, not to say at the same time. Creating a Sense of Urgency and a Vision at the same time seems tantalizing? It is doable in 3 days with tailor made Design Sprint by World of Digits. Every threat and opportunity are already a draft Vision which will need refinements in order to create the Missions.

A Company Purpose declines Sense of Urgency on a regular basis.

Another point we saw in the first part of this article is the Dual Operating System. With the empowerment momentum, you have a group of motivated individuals who are willing to raise the next challenge in line with the company’s Vision and Mission. This is another group in parallel of the existing “hierarchy”. Collaboration and empowerment are fostered.

The Volunteer Army

The empowerment is a strong motivator for the “Volunteer Army” and its application could be in line with the Agile / SCRUM principles and values. Speaking of which, here is the official list of SCRUM values and a proposed default definition to a transition phase for each value:

  • Focus (the Mission),
  • Respect (individuals respect and also a healthy acknowledgement about the company legacy. The Dual Operating System helps to avoid any disturbance in the working “hierarchy” already in place),
  • Openness (lead by example: what the Volunteer Army does is public; should be applied to the whole company eventually),
  • Commitment (the energy should be put on the short terms wins, delivering the most value to the end user),
  • Courage (there will be walls to break, it won’t be easy to change)

Depending on the size of your company, the Volunteer Army and the Guiding Coalition will be composed of most of the same people or it will completely be different teams. Yet, it is fundamental that the Volunteer Army is escorted by the Guiding Coalition in order to keep them on a productive and sustainable Change project. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.

The Guiding Coalition brings the Vision and Mission idea(s). The latter could be challenged by the Volunteer Army. As long as the values objectives are clear, how the company reaches them should not matter most to the Guiding Coalition.

The first and most important goal of the Volunteer Army is to own a short term, significant, visible, achievable win. Of course, it has to be in perfect line with the company’s Vision and Mission.

The Army is a team. It is composed of key users, leaders, from all kinds of background and “levels” in the company. They have signed up because they believe in the Vision. It is a team, not just a few leader’s name. A sense of humility is mandatory to let everyone be involved in the change.

A side goal is to evangelize and inform the rest of the company on the Change status. How is the “short term win” going?

Give the motivated individuals Vision and short terms wins. Give them one, clear objective for one project. If the individuals have to handle numerous goals, the focus will barely be effective.

In parallel, the company should embrace and support openness, self autonomy and empowerment of every employee/assistant. The Volunteer Army will grandly benefit from these values. “When you look at people who are thriving in their jobs, you notice that they didn’t find them, they made them,” said Ashley Goodall, co-author of the book “Nine Lies About Work” (2019).

The last goal of the Guiding Coalition and the Volunteer Army is to keep a strong tight with all stakeholders of the company, especially the C-level and leaders in the usual “hierarchy” put in place, as shown in the Dual Operating System.

Often, the Volunteer Army is a network of initiatives. Each team in the Volunteer Army group themselves (with the help of facilitator), in tight relation with the Guiding Coalition.

The “short term win” objective will try and involve all teams where appropriate. The Guiding Coalition should instill one, clear objective for each team. This objective is to be challenged, it is NOT a direct order of some sort. We are in a collaboration system.

An Achievement to reach out

When the first win is complete, the company should definitely celebrate.

Nonetheless, this first win must be considered as a proof of concept but it shouldn’t be a victory in the change itself. A strong, open retrospective should take place. Winning often makes us forget there is still room for improvement. For example, was this first win achieved in a sustainable pace? Is the management committed to develop a unified high-level project scope (the product vision, objectives, and key results)?

There are other objectives ahead. And the Guiding Coalition will try and gather feedback in order to steer the Volunteer Army for the next win. Depending on the size of the company, there could be different objectives.

What about if it fails? The obvious answer is to learn from it. Why did it fail? There shouldn’t have anything to be afraid of, so being transparent about the failure is as important as the path which led to the failure itself.

In every organization size range, the following areas are very hard to balance and need a continuous and a close follow-up, in parallel to all steps mentioned here above: Communication and Consolidating the Change by a continuous learning process. All mistakes or incidents (depending on how you call them) should be mitigated in the risk acceptance criteria.

The final step is to repeat from the beginning and make sure the Vision and Mission are still up-to-date. Developing a sense of urgency will be harder and harder and should not fall into a false sense of urgency. Hint: focus on quick and easy wins.

When the Sense of Urgency is fading because of time and/or the Missions which were declined from it were reached, it is the CEO’s duty to give a new breath to the company. We will see a professional boxing match between the COO and the CEO. The COO purpose is to deliver and maintain a sustainable pace in every aspect of the resources available to the company (the sustainable, manageable), whereas the CEO provides disruption and revolution to the company.
Hey, it seems to work fine at SpaceX!

Thank you for the time you spent reading this article. Please do not hesitate to contact me at ppeleeheid@worldofdigits.com

Sources:
John P Kotter
Agile Manifesto
SCRUM

written by Pierre Peléeheid

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