The new rules of engagement

The new rules of engagement

Change can mean excitement, anxiety and opposition. That’s why traditional change management approaches emphasise the importance of a guiding coalition to lead the way.

But in an Agile environment, where pace is everything and plans are flexed, a conventional approach to engaging and enabling your people just won’t work. Agile programmes feature regular incremental delivery, so the pace of communications and training must be faster. How can you deliver short-cycle change activities, keep your stakeholders on-board and change fatigue at bay, all without impacting delivery of critical business as usual services?

Here are three areas managers should focus on to accelerate their Agile approach:

Start by building a big tent

Agile is about keeping your options open; this allows the team to iterate to the best solution over time. Priorities will therefore change in-line with business needs, and may become blocked when challenges come up. In combination, these factors make it impossible to predict exactly which areas of the business will be affected; how and when.

So when it comes to engaging the business, change managers need to start with a broad audience and communicate a high-level vision that still gives a clear sense of direction. Once the details of where, what and when become clearer, communications can become more detailed and more focused.

At a large public sector client, we shared high level awareness communications early on with a group of up to 5,000 stakeholders. Once the release was more formally scoped, and the order in which the functionality would be released was agreed, we targeted teams with more specific communications setting out what it meant for them, and when the change would happen.

Get the business on board the release train

Product Owners from the business are critical members of the Agile scrum team. They represent users’ interests, set direction and make day-to-day decisions about the future solution. Having them involved ensures ownership and buy-in from the outset.

Involving additional business representatives in the release train (the group of teams that are delivering value into the business) – and encouraging them to provide regular feedback – will significantly magnify these positive results. We believe that building a wider team of people who understand the change and are prepared to champion it across the business will help to reduce the impact of the change curve. Subject Matter Experts, Change Champions and Trainers should be treated as extended team members, building advocacy and speeding the pace of adoption.

At a government client running a large scaled Agile programme, we established a network of over 200 Change Champions who were vital to design, development and delivery of the Agile solution. Onboarding Change Champions into the team built their Agile knowledge and emphasised how their role was impacted by the Agile approach.

Go bite-sized

The iterative nature of Agile means the same team or business area can come face to face with new functionality as often as every fortnight. But who wants to draft, approve and issue communications twice a month? And what business area can keep operations going (and meet tight service level agreements) if staff need to be allowed time for training every two weeks?

A better way is to focus on creating short, bite-sized communication and learning, delivered through digital channels to be as instant and responsive as possible. This helps keep the organisation up to speed as the delivery develops and encourages better feedback.
Short videos are good for sharing both the programme vision and details of the solution. And sharing prototypes on internal social media and allowing users to post feedback gives staff a chance to become familiar with new ways of working before the new solution is even launched.

At our government client, we used videos to build awareness and familiarity with the new system, and system overlays to point to new functionality. Although staff were initially nervous about not having Training Manuals available, once they saw the new learning style they didn’t look back!
Engaging and enabling people is key to the successful delivery of any programme. When that delivery is Agile, stakeholder engagement needs to reflect the fast-paced, constantly changing and unpredictable nature of this approach. But Agile gives you a head-start – as it has business change built in, it helps you get engagement right and establishes a credible and proactive feedback loop. It also releases enthusiasm for the change – and ultimately reduces the impact of the change curve on your business.

Read more about Agile change management:

Accelerating your Agile ambitions

Follow the leader

For more information contact


Tara Jones is a director in PA Consulting’s London office, where Dennis Layton is a principal.

The authors would like to thank Andrea Alexander, Mauricio Arnau, Lori Dobeus, Kirill Dushkin, Lauren Miller, and Katie Smith for their contributions to this report.

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