Agile Leadership and Change Management
Published on 06/15/2023
Change is an inevitable part of our lives, and in today's fast-paced world, it is more prevalent than ever. It's the undercurrent of our evolution and is the process of becoming different. As leaders, it is crucial to not only adapt to change but also embrace it with an agile mindset. In this blog post, we will explore the concept of agile leadership, its relevance in a dynamic marketing world, and how it can empower individuals and organizations to thrive amidst constant change. So, let's delve into the world of agile leadership and discover its transformative power.
Change creates a massive opportunity to have a clearer vision, become stronger, reinvent, grow, and thrive.
In today's dynamic world, where technology advancements, market disruptions, and global events shape the business landscape, traditional leadership approaches often fall short. The global pandemic has compelled us to swiftly adapt to new business practices and redefine social interactions. Companies promptly transitioned to online operations, necessitating prompt communication regarding changes in business operations.
Businesses that are stuck in old ways will become part of the past.
Agile leadership offers a solution to navigate this complexity and uncertainty. It enables leaders to effectively lead teams through change, foster innovation, and seize emerging opportunities. By embracing agile leadership, individuals and organizations can stay ahead of the curve and thrive in the face of constant flux.
Change can occur at four different levels of intensity:
Understanding the different levels of change intensity enables effective preparation and navigation, ensuring appropriate strategies are employed to manage change at each level.
Change and Transformation are often used interchangeably. Change may be planned or unplanned and has clear boundaries. Transformation, on the other hand, has no clear boundaries. It typically looks like a strategy, a vision for what the future would look like. It cuts across different departments and not just about the process as it also involves transforming the culture. While it's difficult to manage change, it's much more difficult to manage transformation. Transformation takes longer than change.
Agile transformation is a process of evolving from being change resistant, uncomfortable, fearful, and reactive, to thriving in the environment with high change saturation, and being proactive and embracing change. I have worked with multiple clients who have invested millions of dollars in tools and technologies but their lack of investment in change management hindered them from achieving the desired outcomes. An agile leader plays an important role in change management.
Key attributes of an agile leader include a flexible mindset, tolerance for risk, comfort with change, adaptability in problem-solving, embracing servant leadership, valuing team collaboration over individual contributions, active listening and asking questions, and empowering the team.
Agile leadership is a leadership approach that embraces flexibility, adaptability, and responsiveness in the face of change. It is rooted in the principles of the Agile methodology, originally developed for software development but now widely applied across industries. Agile leadership focuses on collaboration, empowerment, continuous learning, and iterative problem-solving. It encourages leaders to be facilitators and coaches rather than traditional hierarchical managers. It’s highly beneficial and helps in enabling organizations to adapt and thrive in the dynamic and competitive market.
By embracing agile leadership principles, marketers can navigate the evolving landscape and achieve sustainable growth.
Effectively guiding teams towards change-resilience is not as simple as knowing and understanding the psychology of individuals multiplied by the number of team members involved. It calls for a different approach.
Susanne, a Marketing Strategist at H2M, collaborated with John, a Solution Architect, to conduct an extensive 8-week evaluation of H2M's marketing tools and strategies. Through numerous discovery meetings and individual sessions with key stakeholders, they dedicated significant time and effort to this endeavor. Subsequently, they presented a comprehensive transformational strategy plan, accompanied by various recommendations. While most teams expressed their support, there was one team whose consent was essential for project advancement. Unfortunately, despite the investment of resources and time, the lack of alignment from this team rendered the efforts futile. Upon further exploration, it became evident that this particular team had exhibited resistance to change for the past two years. This incident highlights the significance of implementing a robust change management process and the need for agile leadership to ensure alignment across all teams, foster collaboration and drive continuous improvement.
Belonging and Understanding are foundational in change management. If they are properly accounted for during the design and implementation of change initiatives, they can contribute significantly to their success
The following techniques can help create and reinforce Belonging and Understanding within teams:
By implementing these techniques, leaders can cultivate belonging and shared understanding within their teams, enhancing collaboration, engagement, and overall team success.
A large real estate client has invested heavily in various marketing tools. They aim to optimize tool utilization by integrating their SMS efforts into Mobile Connect and eliminating two other redundant tools. However, existing team members resist the change due to comfort with the current tools. They fear the learning curve and the additional time that has to be invested. Agile leadership is crucial here to address concerns, provide support, and emphasize the benefits of consolidation, fostering shared understanding and a sense of belonging within the team.
Tools/processes that can help promote Understanding:
A team working agreement refers to a set of guidelines or rules that the team collectively agreed upon and follows to facilitate effective collaboration and achieve common goals. It serves as a foundation for how team members interact, communicate, and work together. It covers various aspects, including but not limited to:
The team working agreement is created and agreed upon by the team members themselves, often during the project kickoff or team formation stage. It is a dynamic document that can be revised or updated as needed, reflecting the team's evolving needs and circumstances.This agreement promotes transparency, accountability, and a sense of ownership among team members, leading to improved productivity and a more cohesive and high-performing team.
Empathy Maps: An empathy map is a tool that helps design a collaborative process aligned with team members' feelings, motivations, and working styles. It allows team leaders to understand what drives each team member and the emotions they may experience during their work.
Scrum framework: Scrum, a lightweight framework rooted in agile principles, is used to develop and deliver complex products. It focuses on people and enables teams to be creative, collaborative, productive, and adaptable to change. Scrum teams are cross-functional and adhere to five core values: openness, courage, commitment, respect, and focus.
Servant leadership mindset: It's a mindset and philosophy embraced by exceptional leaders. It involves ten important attributes: listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, mentorship, and team building. These qualities enable leaders to support and empower their teams effectively.
Facilitation is the art of unleashing the intelligence, insights, and creativity of individuals within a team. Teams comprise individuals with diverse knowledge and incredible potential for creativity. Facilitation is a skill of a servant leader who helps the team reach its full potential.
Knowing how to lead change in an organization is a critical skill for any leader to have.
Regardless of the scope, complexity, and size of a particular change, you must be able to create a clear path to get buy-in from others on your team and in your organization.
Two important models for understanding and managing organizational change: Lewin's three stages model and the McKinsey 7S framework.
Lewin's three stages model provides a simple yet effective approach to managing change. The three stages are unfreeze, change, and freeze.Unfreezing involves preparing the organization for change by creating awareness and a sense of urgency. This stage helps break down existing mindsets and resistance to change. The change stage is where the actual modifications and adjustments take place. It requires deliberate effort to manipulate the current state of the organization and implement the desired changes. Finally, the freeze stage involves solidifying and institutionalizing the new state, making it the norm.By following Lewin's three stages model, organizations can expect to gain a structured approach to change, increased understanding and support from employees, and the successful implementation and institutionalization of desired changes.
The McKinsey 7S framework examines seven interconnected elements within an organization that collectively shape its effectiveness. These elements are shared values, structure, strategy, systems, style, staff, and skills. The framework highlights the interdependencies and relationships between these elements. It emphasizes that all components need to be aligned and mutually reinforcing for the organization to achieve its objectives. When planning a project or change initiative, the McKinsey 7S model can be used to assess the impact on each element and identify any misalignments that require corrective action.
Let’s take an example of a retail company developing a new campaign on a new channel to compete with established market leaders. In this scenario, the company's strategy might involve adopting a lean startup approach. Instead of following a traditional development process, the company focuses on rapid experimentation and learning. The structure would involve cross-functional teams, self-organizing and empowered to make decisions. Systems would include marketing tools and frameworks. Skills would focus on training and developing team members. The leadership style would change to be more collaborative and servant-oriented, encouraging autonomy and trust among team members. Staffing would involve hiring or reskilling individuals. Lastly, shared values would emphasize the importance of customer satisfaction, continuous improvement, and embracing change.
By applying the McKinsey 7S framework, agile leadership can assess and align these elements to create a conducive environment for agile practices. It ensures that strategy, structure, systems, skills, style, staff, and shared values work cohesively to support agile principles, enabling the organization to be more responsive, adaptable, and successful in delivering customer value.
Kotter's eight-step model, developed by John Kotter, is a popular change management model that helps organizations effectively implement change. The model consists of the following steps:
By following these eight steps, organizations can navigate through the change process more effectively and increase the likelihood of successful implementation.
Another well known theory, ADKAR theory, developed by Jeff Hiatt, provides a road map for addressing the business and the people's side of change. ADKAR is an acronym and stands for awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, and reinforcement. For change to be successful, each of the elements of the model must be addressed in order.
Let’s consider a use case and understand how Agile leadership is effective in overcoming challenges related to market dynamics, cross-functional collaboration, tight timelines, and customer-centricity
Scenario: A retail brand is planning a marketing campaign to promote its new product line across various channels, including social media, email marketing, and influencer partnerships.
With agile leadership, the retail brand successfully executes the marketing campaign across multiple channels. Agile methodologies allow for real-time adaptation based on performance data, resulting in optimized campaign strategies. Cross-functional collaboration and a data-driven approach contribute to improved campaign performance, customer engagement, and brand awareness.
In a dynamic world of constant change, agile leadership is crucial for individuals and organizations to thrive. By embracing adaptability, empowering teams, fostering collaboration, and promoting continuous learning, agile leaders can navigate uncertainty and seize opportunities. So, let us embrace the transformative power of agile leadership and embark on a journey of growth, innovation, and success in this dynamic world of change.