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Nov 12, 2021

In the past year, the global pandemic thrusted workplace transformation into hyperdrive as companies initiating Covid-related changes 20-25 times faster than they thought possible pre-pandemic. This includes efforts like the transition to remote work — most companies took an average of 11 days to find a workable solution. This is a stark comparison to even 18 months ago, when many organizations still contemplated whether remote work was even possible. 

While the types of changes organizations have endured couldn’t have been anticipated, there is one thing that many gained from the experience that they were previously lacking — speed. 

In fact, pre-pandemic 66% of CHROs were dissatisfied with the speed of change implementation within their organizations. Today, as many companies transition back to the new “normal” — whatever that may look like — they are hoping to apply this spirit of agility and efficiency to transformations happening across their business. 

The question becomes: As leaders and change agents, how do we operate in such a way that allows us to keep pace with the new environment? One way is to embrace an Agile approach to change management, with a heightened focus on co-creation, testing, and iteration. 

4 Ways to Become More Agile

1. Stop obsessing over perfection and start prioritizing evolving solutions. Here’s a common scenario: Employees are hungry to learn more about an upcoming change initiative, including what’s changing, how it impacts them, and why it matters. But instead of sharing what is known today, the team waits to share anything until the seemingly “perfect” message is crafted with all details and specifics. 

In the meantime, employees are left in the dark for weeks, sometimes longer, resulting in rumors, increased anxiety, and uncertainty.

Does this sound familiar in your organization? It’s OK not to have answers to every question, but it’s not OK to leave your employees in the dark. Instead, embrace an iterative approach to information sharing. Your general framework should be: 

  1. Commit to transparency in the upfront.
  2. Be honest about what you know and what is still to be determined.
  3. Ask your employees to stay tuned as more information becomes available.

Let’s say a company is relocating their headquarters to a new city. As part of the announcement, you want to issue FAQs to help address employee questions and concerns. Knowing you are in the early stages of the transition, it’s unlikely that you’ll have specifics about employee desk assignments, parking arrangements, or new badges. Instead of waiting to collect all this information, release the top 10 questions you do know the answers to and commit to updating them over time. 

Leading up to the move, continue to refine the FAQs on a regular basis to be more comprehensive, pressure-test tough responses with change ambassadors and sponsors, and incorporate questions from town halls, feedback forms, and open-ended surveys.

2. Co-create solutions with your team and employees. Instead of developing solutions in a silo, consider partnering with other members of your change team or sponsors to co-create materials or solutions. Not only will you gain diverse perspectives or find an alternative way to tackle a problem, but by engaging others in the process, you’ll gain alignment and buy-in early on.

Also, don’t forget to engage employees when and where it makes sense. A recent study found that while 74% of leaders say they involved employees in creating change strategies, only 42% of employees feel they were truly included. By providing people with an opportunity to share ideas and be heard (focus groups, pulse surveys, hackathons, contests, etc.), you drive change from the inside out and begin to create awareness and engagement. 

3. Break down complex goals. A common theme across major transformation efforts is waterfall project and change management plans. These often consist of detailed Excel plans consisting of hundreds of lines of information that could make anyone’s head spin. 

While having overarching plans and strategies are critical to staying on track, they can often be overwhelming or distract from immediate, short-term needs. It’s good practice to break up your change strategy into more manageable chunks or small “stepping stone” goals to get you to completion.

One way to do this is via a Kanban board, a commonly used Agile tool that was originally taken from the Toyota production system. While boards vary in complexity, a basic board includes three columns representing To Do, In Progress, and Complete tasks. Under each column, there are “sticky notes” that represent priority tasks focusing only on the current week or sprint. 

While there are multiple vendors offering Kanban software with varying degrees of complexity, this approach is something you can easily implement for your team using a table in PowerPoint or a whiteboard in your office.

4. Continually measure and adapt. Measuring success is important, but it’s important to do it continually. By gathering data and insights throughout the change journey, you can refine your strategy and approach to better meet stakeholder needs and increase satisfaction. Don’t make the common mistake of waiting until the end of the change to measure adoption, at which point it’s too late to pivot and make a meaningful difference.

One way to measure progress is to distribute short pulse surveys to impacted stakeholders, consisting of three to five questions guided by Prosci’s ADKAR model. “ADKAR” is an acronym for the five outcomes an individual needs to achieve for a change to be successful: awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, and reinforcement. 

Here are sample pulse survey questions that you can rate on a Likert scale:

I understand the change.I know this change will benefit me, my team, and our organization.I have the knowledge and training I need to be successful.I can implement the change and know where to go for support.I feel rewarded and recognized for embracing the change.

Becoming an Agile organization won’t happen overnight. But these tips and tricks for applying Agile practices to transformation efforts should help you in working more collaboratively and efficiently at the right speed.