In Part One, Janet and I talked about how change management has changed because change itself has changed.

The world seems to move faster. Timelines compress, scopes shift, and flexibility is often more valued than disciplined methodology.

In the past five years, project execution has shifted away from traditional approaches. This shift has challenged our experience as change consultants and has forced us to adapt to more rapidly changing environments. We believe the shift has also spawned a new kind of project which we call a “Dynamic Change” project. Let me explain.

For a long time, waterfall projects (see graphic) ruled the business world with a more linear approach to planning and implementation. But today, with artificial intelligence becoming commonplace, globalization shrinking the planet, and social media creating instant connections and sometimes unlikely alliances, things happen faster and bring almost immediate impact. Many waterfall projects are being replaced because they don’t fit this accelerated pace or the expectations of leaders who want things done faster, with fewer resources and better results.

To adapt to this environment, the Agile approach and Agile-type projects (see graphic) with an emphasis on learn-and-adapt methods have become popular. These projects adjust better to rapidly shifting priorities and today’s “I-need-something-different-now” business world.

Our growing belief is that something exists between a waterfall and an Agile project. We call this blended model a “Dynamic Change” project.

But, even as Agile approaches have matured to be effective for software development, Janet and I find that project managers struggle with adaptation in non-software development contexts. They fall back on more traditional, waterfall habits and blend them with Agile practices.  We did a quick, informal poll with our colleagues and found that over 50% of them have worked on projects with this “mixed” methodology.

This confirmed our growing belief that something exists between a Waterfall and an Agile project. We call this blended model a “Dynamic Change” project.

Why Does this Matter to Change Management?

As a change manager, if you are working on either type of well defined project methodology, consider yourself lucky.

  • In a waterfall project there is most likely historical evidence to predict the future state and you can use traditional methods to plan and control the change.

  • In an Agile project, while ambiguity can hover, a shared sense of the problem and desired outcome is known. You also have a controlled method for planning, learning, and adapting to build the best solution.

In contrast, in a Dynamic Change project, a change manager has neither a defined future state nor a controlled way of learning and adapting to find the solution. You are amid the thick clouds of having-to-figure-it-out-as-you-go. Every element of the project can change at the same time.

So how do you figure it out? How do you manage fast-paced, dynamic, and ambiguous change? From our experience recently working on Dynamic Change projects, Janet and I put these five tips together.

1

Assess the situation – Before you get started, take time to assess what type of project you’re embarking on.

2

Create a culture – Develop and maintain an effective cross-functional team that embraces a learn-and-adapt mindset to help members maneuver through dynamic change.

3

Plan for “No Plan” – Accepting that you won’t have an exact plan to start, establish a base plan and iterate the plan as you learn with the team.

4

Make the project team part of your engagement plan – Help project team members through the change cycle to release their energy to support dynamic change for the business stakeholders. (Change cycle phases begin with awareness and progress to advocacy: awareness > understanding > acceptance > commitment > advocacy)

5

Hone your soft skills, you’ll need them! – Build change resilience in the organization and use soft skills.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll discuss these concepts and hopefully help you understand and find answers to the uncomfortable question, “How do you manage change when there is no change plan?”

Change moves on whether we plan for it or not. Contact us and we can help you and your organization understand and succeed in a dynamic and changing environment.