Selling Agile: Gaining Commitment

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Building people’s commitment to anything new, or to any significant change, is something that takes time and happens in distinct stages.

Selling agile development is no different.

As a change leader, you need to recognise this and understand the stages people go through.

You need to take proactive action to identify who is at what stage of commitment, and address it accordingly.

This a critical success factor in change management.

First, there is no awareness of the problem or opportunity. There must be contact to generate the initial awareness.

Then there is a period of confusion, which must be addressed by helping people to understand the change.

My presentation about key agile principles could potentially help with the communication for the above two stages.

Then, there will possibly be a negative perception, which may be based on valid concerns, false perceptions, or possibly based on fear of the implications. Now you must sell the need for change and the positive implications, in order to generate a positive perception.

Otherwise they will make a conscious or unconscious decision not to implement the change.

They will then go through a period of ‘testing’, where they are establishing and assessing the validity of the change and its impact. Here they must be supported in order to avoid losing their buy-in at this stage.

Only then will they move into the stage of adoption. At this point the people who need to implement the change need to be educated. My presentation about how to implement Scrum might help with this stage. This is a good time to consider formal training.

And only then, after extensive implementation, will the change be institutionalised.

So, when selling agile (or any other change), as well as identifying the need for the change and the implications of implementing it, you must also pay careful attention to the process of selling the change to all key stakeholders.

Identify whose commitment is needed – not only to get approval to adopt the change, but also who is needed to implement it, and make it work in practice. Set out a clear communication plan, to ensure you gain and retain their commitment throughout these stages, until the change is successfully institutionalised.

If you want to understand more about these stages of building people’s commitment, see here – change management expert and author, Daryl Connor.