The Scrum Master as a Change Agent
The course is part of this learning path
This module reflects on the need to change within a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) environment and explains how Kotter’s Change Model can be used to successfully implement change. Within this it references the importance of the language we use and avoiding semantics. Then it highlights the important role of HR in the change process and how the Scrum Master can work with them to facilitate change.
The objectives of this course are to provide you with and understanding of:
- The change model.
- The Scrum Master’s role in using the change model as an agent for change.
- Ensuring communication is clear and understood to avoid semantics.
- The role HR play in driving culture change.
The course is aimed at the Agile Scrum Master. However, it’s equally relevant to the Product Owner’s role in the team.
Prerequisites of the Certifications
There are no specific pre-requisites to study this course.
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In this video we’re going to look at the process you can follow to successfully implement change.
The need to change
We live in a dynamic and fast-changing world which is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous – or VUCA.
What this means is that organizations must be aware of the changing world and be prepared for the unexpected to survive. If they understand this and can continually transform themselves through clear strategic direction, effective leadership and enterprise agility, they’re more likely to be successful.
This changing environment is happening at a time when technological advances are almost too quick to keep up with which facilitates disruptors entering our markets. Disruptors change an industry in an unexpected way – and create a market which didn’t exist before. This means they change the way we think and behave by looking at things differently – they shift the expectations and behaviors in a market and generally use new technologies to do this.
The reality of this is that disruptors can often compete more effectively than existing organizations, so they can displace or destroy them by changing the market. That means organizations must continually change and evolve to effectively compete.
Kotter’s change model
Built on the work of Kurt Lewin, John Kotter’s 8-step model is one of the most widely used approaches and has been created over four decades of observing leaders and organizations implementing change. It provides an effective approach for implementing and embedding change.
Change is not a simple and quick process, and careful planning and evaluation are required. Kotter suggests that 70% of change initiatives fail because organisations don’t prepare effectively or properly see the project through.
Let’s go through each of the steps to see what they mean.
Step 1 Create urgency
So, disruptors in a VUCA world make change an urgent necessity for any organization. And this means creating an environment where individuals identify problems and can see possible solutions – which means they’ll support the change when it’s made.
The first step is to generate conversations about what’s happening in your industry and what direction the organization could go in to be successful. This creates a 'need' to change, rather than just a ‘desire’ to change. The difference is very important when it comes to the success of the change.
Preparing for change is critical before jumping into the change process – in general terms, it’s estimated that 75% of an organization’s management needs to be behind a change for it to be successful.
Step 2 Form a powerful coalition
As a Scrum Master, you have a key role as a change agent and, an important part of this, is how you engage and manage stakeholders.
You can’t lead the whole change process on your own – you need a coalition of team members who can help you be an advocate for change and direct others. Ideally, this coalition should have a range of skills and experience and involve people from different areas of the business. You’ll need them to help you communicate the change and ensure there’s organization-wide support for it.
Team members that collaborate, complement each other and can drive each other to work harder will make your life easier and mean the change is more likely to be successful.
Step 3: Create a vision for change
A change initiative is likely to be complicated and possibly hard to understand – especially for individuals in more junior positions. Creating a vision that’s easy to understand and encapsulates the overall aim can really help to generate interest and support from the whole organization.
While the vision should be simple and understandable, it also needs to be inspirational and engage the whole organization.
Step 4: Communicate the vision
The most inspiring vision only works if it’s communicated effectively. The coalition have a key role here because they’ll have a much broader network throughout the organization than you have on your own.
But remember, communication of the vision must be ongoing to maintain interest and engagement, and reinforce a clear goal.
Step 5: Remove obstacles
The first four steps build the strength of the change initiative, but you should also plan for obstacles that will reduce the chances of success.
What are the common obstacles you’ll face when implementing change?
According to Best Practices in Change Management, the five most common obstacles to successful change are:
Lack of executive support and sponsorship of the change;
Inadequate change management buy-in and resourcing;
Resistance and lack of support for the specific solution being proposed;
A change-resistant culture and organizational structure; and
Too much change which leads to a lack of prioritization.
No doubt you’ll have a few obstacles blocking your path and these might be related to people, processes, technology or something else. The key is to identify them as soon as possible and work with the resources you have to break them down, without disrupting any other areas of the business.
Step 6: Create short-term wins
We know change can take time – and energy – and the rewards don’t always come quickly. This can cause support to fall off if individuals think their effort has been wasted or other demands take over.
So, you need to demonstrate the benefits of the change by creating short-term wins – small incremental changes. Short-term targets provide motivation and direction, and help justify the investment in the change. This then helps to motivate stakeholders, senior managers and team members to continue backing the change.
Step 7: Build on the change
One of the biggest things that can cause change processes to fail is complacency – particularly towards the end of the process which means things aren’t finished properly and the change isn’t embedded in the organization.
It’s vital to sustain and cement the change long after it’s been implemented. Effective evaluation, analysing what can be done better and setting new goals will all contribute to continued improvement.
Step 8: Anchor the changes in corporate culture
Easier said than done but, as you know, just changing a few habits and processes isn’t enough to instil a culture change across the organization.
The changes need to be at the core of your organization to have a lasting effect. Keeping senior stakeholders on board, encouraging new employees to adopt the changes and celebrating individuals who adopt the new ways of doing things will all help you to achieve this.
Kotter’s model is important for you as a Scrum Master because you have a key role as a change agent. We’ve seen the importance of effective planning and anchoring the changes to ensure a lasting, positive impact on the organization’s culture. These steps are important to avoid cognitive bias leading individuals back to their old ways of working.
A final warning though – evidence suggests that neglecting any of these 8 steps can be enough for the entire change initiative to fail. So, there are no options here.
A word on semantics
As Scrum Master, you’re an Agile advocate. That means you’re continually communicating with agile teams and stakeholders through the cycle of change.
Agile transformations work best when people understand why changes are required and how they’ll improve things for the business. But, by openly using agile jargon within a wider setting, risks isolating the people that are needed to make the change happen. And that’s what semantics is – the language we use.
Have you ever been in a conversation where you think you’re talking about the same thing as somebody else but, because you’re using different language, you’re not quite sure? This often ends up with confused faces, ‘agreeing to disagree’ and, in the context of change, ambiguity and problems.
It’s only semantics but it winds people up and can create obstacles in the change process.
Ensuring everybody understands what’s happening by summarizing and clarifying with individuals is an important part of the communication process and will help agile adoption. Don’t take this forgranted – always make your message clear and unambiguous.
There’s more information about change management in the ‘Change Management Obstacles’ guide. And more about overcoming resistance in the ‘Dealing with Resistance to Change’ guide. You’ll find links in the Change Agent Resources.
About the Author
Tony has over 20 years’ experience in Business Development, Business Change, Consulting and Project/Programme Management working with public, private and third sector organisations.
He has helped organisations to design and create process and procedures to align ways of working with corporate strategy. A highly motivated and detailed solution provider utilising a wide range of methods and frameworks to provide structure whilst promoting creativity and innovation.
As a confident and self-motivated professional with excellent communication skills Tony is able to bring people together and get them working as a team quickly.
Tony is an Agile and Scrum trainer with a vast knowledge spanning IT Systems, Business Change, Programme and Project Management. With excellent presentation skills and a solid background, he ensures that all clients gain maximum benefit from his training. He has successfully guided those new to the industry through their initial training, helped experienced staff as they progress in their careers and worked at Director level advising on best use and practice, as well as tailoring courses to fulfil the exact needs of clients.