Ready to Make a Change to Agile? Make it STICKY!

“Change means uncertainty; uncertainly breeds opportunity.”      Japanese saying

 “Uncertainty is the breeding ground of all great possibility!”        Jennifer Chrisman

Are you ready to adopt Agile project management to improve project delivery and complement and enhance “traditional” project management rigor? If yes, then you need a change management approach with actions that can make change happen — and make it stick.

In their 2007 book, Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath explain six principles to make change stick.

Let’s look at each principle:

Simplicity: Find the core idea; keep it simple; overcome the curse of knowledge

Unexpectedness: Surprise generates interest and curiosity to grab attention; opens gaps that you can fill with knowledge

Concreteness: Be specific (i.e., Put a man on the moon by the end of this decade and bring him back safely); no abstract speak

Credibility: Use relevant experts; size your statistics (use a human scale—i.e. don’t say “micro-seconds”); use the power of details (if suitable to the audience)

Be careful  . . . don’t declare victory too soon. To embed the change and ensure that it sticks, acknowledge the lessons learned. Engage and involve project team members over the long term. Reward best practices to capture the full benefit of the change.

Emotions: Tap into things people care about, appeal to self-interest, appeal to identity

Many project leaders excel at building the rational case for change, but they are less adept in appealing to people’s emotional core. Yet the team members’ emotions are where the momentum for real transformation ultimately lies. “Make it stick” communications need to be targeted to each segment of the project team, and delivered in a two-way fashion that allows team members to make sense of the change subjectively.

Stories: Tell stories, it’s the next best thing to doing it; incorporate as many of these sticky principles as possible.

Maintain continuous effort to ensure that the changes are indeed working. Keep talking about how well the project is doing with the change to Agile to encourage people. When hiring new project team members, make the Agile approach stick in their minds.

Read Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath and learn why some ideas survive and others die.

If you are adopting Agile project management, a change management approach such as this can help you enhance your overall transformation capability, increase the speed of implementation, and improve the probability of success.

To learn how to apply Agile project management principles and the Scrum framework to create software-intensive products, check out Learning Tree’s course – Agile Project Management with Scrum.

James L. Haner

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