Change managers know from the outset of a change journey that when embarking on large scale change it is close to impossible and likely unwise to define each change element in detail. Experienced change managers quickly learn change initiatives require a high level of flexibility. Often change starts with an idea, be it an opportunity or a response to a critical event. As the change vision starts to take shape, the discovery phase commences. As change always has ambiguity, a cycle of discovery and learning will continue throughout the change process.
This process of continuous discovery and learning will likely result in revisions to the change initiative scope, with possible revisions to the outcomes sought, the initiatives that make up the programme of change, as well as necessary adaptions to the selected delivery and stakeholder engagement approaches.
Flexibility and agility therefore become important attributes when managing broad-scale change. Leaders of change, financial sponsors, those managing as well as those impacted by the planned change, need to buy-in to this idea of flexibility and agility. The challenge being, we’ve been taught to manage scope tightly as a mechanism to achieve timelines and deliver within budget. Though what is of most importance when assessing the success of a change initiative? Is it time or budget or realization of outcomes sought? The answer is the latter. This, however does not mean budget and timelines are not important, they are of importance and do need control, but it is the outcomes sought that drives change. For change with high levels of ambiguity, it is inevitable fixed time and cost will need to flex. Judgements need to be made with spend and timelines as part of the considerations in reaching a balanced decision, with outcomes front of mind. We can refer this as an outcome-focused approach.
Ambiguity is a common characteristic of all change initiatives, as change is a future-focused activity where no one can be certain on what will happen next. Levels of ambiguity is hard to measure, influenced by the degree of change: size/scope of change, levels of emotional and financial investment required, capability shift needed to achieve outcomes sought, organizational change capability. Knowing what is ambiguous, however allows us to frame risks associated with change.
It is not possible to remove all risks associated with a change nor is it always necessary to reduce risks as far as possible. By understanding of areas of ambiguity and risks levels, choices need to be made with ‘eyes-open’.
Change teams will always need to deal with ambiguity, this is why a highly important attribute for change sponsors, change managers and change agents is that they are people comfortable with working with high levels of uncertainty.
Adopting a flexible approach, underpinned by iterative and incremental delivery, together with being open to changing requirements are often promoted as important practices underpinning agile approaches and methods. These practices have also been applied for a long time as important practices for successful management of broad-scale change.
Iterative and incremental delivery in an agile product delivery environment is often described as a practice where product requirements and product development evolves over time in conjunction with a cycle of regular product releases within fixed time-boxes (or ‘sprints’). The alternative to this development approach is an environment where all product requirements are considered prior to development, often referred to as a ‘waterfall’ approach. Some of the benefits of iterative and incremental development is that it allows the solution development team, under the guidance of a product owner:
Where solution development teams tend to be focused on incremental delivery of products, change managers are adopting a similar approach, though the focus of change managers will be on incremental delivery of capabilities and realization of outcomes and benefits. Further, prioritizing and managing outcomes and benefits, so as to realize them as early as possible.
Seeking to learn more about managing change and integrating agile principles and practices? Speak to a HiLogic trainer or coach to discuss your change and agile training and certification coaching requirements. Hilogic experts also provides PRINCE2 training in Melbourne and Perth and Agile learning in Malaysia.