6 Deadly Sins of Agile Implementations: Change Management

August 5, 2020 | Peter Cronin

In the previous article, we discussed failing to implement Agile throughout the organisation. In this article, we will discuss failing to manage the change aspect of the transformation.


“You can plan all you like, but if you don’t actually change the behaviours people do on a day-to-day basis then nothing in the business is going to change.”


Has your Agile implementation failed because people are unwilling, or unable, to accept change? If you are not able to successfully manage the change aspect of the transformation, your Agile implementation is less likely to produce the desired outcome and is, therefore, unlikely to succeed. This is our sin number three.

When it comes to implementing Agile, you can put all the plans that you require in place, but in order for the change to be accepted, and ultimately adopted, you need people to act differently. In other words, you need people to change what they are doing on a day-to-day basis, so that they produce a different outcome.

Working Differently

Rather than focus your attention solely on the ‘structural’ change resulting from your Agile implementation, think about how the change will impact your teams, in particular, the ‘average’ operator in your business.

For example, consider factors like:

  1. How are people going to work differently day-to-day as a result of the implementation?
  2. What different group behaviours are there going to be post-implementation?
  3. What different meetings are you going to have in the business? Who will be involved?
  4. Are there going to be different decisions? How will these decisions affect your teams?


“Think about what your people are going to be doing differently. How is their life going to be better or worse? It has to be better, or it is not going to stick.”


Adopting the New Way

Some teams will take well to a change project, and will proactively aid in its acceptance, while others will be slow to adopt. If you do not make every effort to ensure your teams will prefer the new way of doing things over the old way, it will be very difficult to get people to embrace the new way! As a consequence of this, if the new way is not adopted, the new habits are not likely to ‘kick in’ and nothing will change.

Have conversations with those people who are going to be affected by the changes resulting from the Agile implementation. It is particularly important to involve those people who will be making the changes.

The following questions are a good start:

  1. Why do you like about how work is managed now? What don’t you like about it?
  2. What do you like about how meetings are run? What don’t you like about it?
  3. What do you like about how decisions are made? What don’t you like about it?

Use the answers to these (and other) questions to gain an understanding around what people like to do in your business. For instance, you may have teams that like to communicate more. If this is the case, ensure you have steps in place that allow for clear communication between people and teams.

People are creatures of habit. For some people, it may be difficult to adopt a new behaviour set. This is not because they are being malicious, but because they have ingrained habits. By nature, people find activities they are familiar with easier to do than new activities, especially if the new tasks are not accessible.

Change Can be Fun

For your Agile implementation to be embraced and adopted by your team, you need to make sure that the transformation makes life easier (and more fun!) for your teams so the new habits can be formed. The best way to achieve this ultimately depends on your people, and what makes them happy and productive.

For example, creating a fun environment by throwing lollies around, reinforcing people about what they are doing might work great for some people, while others will refuse to engage with it, and just stare at you like, “This is ridiculous.” Consider everyone in your teams, and give thought to what reinforces each individual.


“Reward those in your teams who make the time and effort to embrace change, especially those who do it with a good attitude and get others on board.”


However you decide to ‘sell’ the Agile transformation, make it a big event for your teams. Most importantly, make it a fun, reinforcing activity to get into. Make people want to be part of this change! You don’t want to push the change project as, “Oh, this is just a set of new processes and mechanisms to do with your job that we now need to do so we can tick it off on a sheet.” That is never going to get people involved!

For your Agile implementation to be truly successful, everyone within the business needs to be a part of the journey! You must have everyone fully committed and involved. Behaviours will need to change as required, and, most importantly, you must have everyone in your teams actually want the change to be successful.