Changing across the board with Luke Garner

We conducted a Q&A interview with Luke Garner, Change Management Consultant at Agilisys, around change management, agile and what is the best way that organisations can approach this.

Could you introduce yourself and what you do?

Sure, I’m Luke!  I’m a change management professional, currently working as a consultant for Agilisys; a public sector consultancy. I help organisations change the way they work and try to ensure everyone’s happy about it!

There are a variety of definitions of change management, but how would you define it?

This is one of my biggest bugbears; it’s often confused with identifying the change needed in an organisation (a business analyst), or the delivery of the product (project manager).

As a change manager, I seek to understand what an organisation is going to change and why, then try to get everyone to buy into it and adopt the change moving forward. I follow a process with various tools and techniques to manage the people impact of whatever is changing.  My focus is on helping employees embrace and adopt the change which, in turn, leads to a quicker return on investment for the organisation.

They say that on average 70% of projects fail to meet their intended business case, why do you think this is and could an agile approach change this statistic?

I’ve seen that statistic loads – honestly, I think that’s a bit of a bloated figure!

However, where I see the majority of projects fail, is down to poor change management – IE. people aren’t bought into the change and when it goes live are slow to adopt. 

The rest I see is typically down to the approach – usually waterfall.  The challenge with waterfall is you complete planning, then design, then build, then test – by this point people have identified things that need to change which leads to re-work, which comes at a cost, eroding the business case.

Is there a way to improve an organisation’s tolerance and capability for change management?

Doing more of it and learning each time you do – the only way to increase capability is to continuously do, then evaluate and do again (just improve it next time)

Regarding tolerance, a key part of a strong change capability is ensuring that there isn’t change fatigue growing in the organisation – this usually comes down to being smart about the activities you are doing on each project and aligning them where possible.

Can you build a change management capability across the organisation as a whole, or does it need to be in siloed teams?

I think both approaches can work, there are benefits and challenges to both – it depends on the organisation.

I’ve been in organisations with one change team that are resourced out to projects, conversely I’ve also been in an organisation with what seemed like a dozen different change teams.

The benefit to having one central team is that it’s easier to share best practice, to have a holistic view of what’s going on etc.

Is there a ‘one size fits all approach’ to establishing a change management capability that organisations can implement?

Definitely. There are some standard steps to take

  1. Identify the need for change in the organisation
  2. Engage with key stakeholders to secure endorsement – and 'key' doesn’t always mean senior…
  3. Deliver “light touch” change management for a key project to prove value (by ‘light touch’ I mean a couple of the key activities, not full on change management).

Then we have 2 paths, either;

Create a change network throughout the organisation who can be upskilled, to then deliver change to their business units with oversight in the form of a change manager.

Or;

Start with one change manager and build out a team around them who partner with different business units to deliver the change for them – internal consultants essentially.

From here it’s about defining a change framework that fits with the organisation – either creating a best practice example, or an off the shelf methodology – PROSCI for example, then wrapping some governance around it.

Where should change sit within an organisation?

Wherever any other project related role sits. Ideally, Business Analysts, Project Managers, PMO & Change should all sit in the same area. This allows a holistic view of everything changing in the organisation and ensures there isn’t duplication of effort or work missed.

Do you think traditional change management processes have a place in agile projects?

The traditional change activities & tools certainly do – what needs to change is how they are planned and delivered as current frameworks are geared towards a waterfall delivery method.

Agile is essentially continuous delivery, so there isn’t the benefit of a great deal of lead time to plan how and when you might deliver things. Take communications planning for example, on a waterfall project I’ll be able to have a rough idea of what I’m going to communicate when over a prolonged period. With agile, I don’t have the benefit of knowing what is going to be delivered when, so I must adjust my approach to communicating. 

Organisations have a variety of demographics making up their workforce, which require treating differently when going through change projects, but how can the organisation adapt the way they manage change to help get all of their people on board with the change?

The first thing to recognise and accept here is that you don’t get all people onboard with any change (unless it’s a pay rise!).  The key is to get enough people onboard to tip the momentum into success, rather than failure.

For me, the critical path to success here lies within a well-mobilised change network, covering all the key demographics.  As a change manager I do everything I can to help people embrace what’s going on, but having a network of their peers (who are supportive of the change) who can drive the change from within their area is the key.

How can agile and change management interact and work together?

For everything to work in harmony, change needs to change and we have to get comfortable with short lead times to get things delivered and accept we won’t be able to deliver 100% perfect change – we need to deliver the minimum viable change upfront and focus on, embed and sustain activity.

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Luke is a highly accomplished business professional with a proven track record of delivering change in some of the largest UK organisations in their industry.

His expertise covers the identification and management of stakeholders, driving engagement through effective communication and ensuring individuals are set up for success to embed and sustain the change. His drive to succeed and improve is in part a result of a highly successful career as a GB athlete.