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Agile Change Management

Recently, I ran into a problem adding a biller to my business account’s Internet bill pay. I called the bank’s Internet banking support line for help and explained the problem in full detail right off the bat. Of course, this didn’t stop the help desk representative from taking me on the long and winding road of Q&A, before she could confirm that what I was experiencing was a “known problem.”

As luck would have it, my big national bank was working to solve it as quickly as possible and in the meantime there was a workaround that I could use to take care of business. The workaround involved using the bank’s feature-challenged mobile site to add the biller. Of course, the mobile site required a separate login, but at least I could use the same browser on my same computer to access it, or so the representative was leading me to believe… Well, it didn’t work, not in Chrome, which came back with a “Server Error” as soon as I submitted my user name.

Stories like this are commonplace nowadays. “But what do they have to do with Agile Change Management,” you ask? In one word: “everything!” Large enterprises outside of the software industry are finally waking up to the paradigm shift that took place in software development since the Manifesto for Agile Software Development was first published 14 years ago this month. Many of these large companies are seeing the benefits that their competitors are reaping by going Agile and are eager to make the transition themselves. (Of course, they are ignoring many of the hidden costs.)

The new converts to the ways of the Lean Startup usually know quite well where they currently stand organizationally, in terms of their stringent ITIL inspired processes and waterfall model software development capabilities. Oftentimes, management at a particular level also has a great vision of being fully Agile in their software development and realizes that the transition will not be easy. And the only secret sauce invariably missing in most every one of these undertakings is true organizational change leadership.

Simply knowing where you are and where you are going says nothing about the road that you plan to take to get there; the best paths to take are almost never obvious. Finding the right approach to affecting organizational change is not easy. Couple that with specialized knowledge and experience required for properly combining ITIL framework with Scaled Agile and you have an even bigger problem finding the right help.

The best executives know that they need to hire the right experts to help manage organizational change of this magnitude. They will bring in organizational change leaders, risk managers, Agile coaches and ITIL experts to design the effort, provide training and otherwise prime their organizations before making any moves that may prove to be disruptive otherwise. They will make the needed changes slowly and carefully – one little nudge at a time – and in time they will be wildly successful.

There are also management teams, who will grow impatient, will give in to perceived or real competitive pressures and force change onto their organizations before these organizations can accept such changes. Judging by the number of half-baked workarounds surfacing and persisting in the very visible customer facing web presences from major financial institutions, including my bank, there are way too many companies in this second category. Let’s at least remind them that viable release rollback plans can preclude the necessity of dysfunctional workarounds.

Originally posted on LinkedIn here.

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