“Responding to change is more important than following a plan.” 
–The Agile Manifesto, 2001

As human beings, we don’t like change. We are natural creatures of habit. Change means uncertainty, which sparks emotions, such as awkwardness, stress, and anxiety. As a result, change then leads to instability and a decrease in productivity, which elevates risks to not only the project, but to the organization as a whole.

However, entrepreneurs, leaders, and project managers deal with some level of change every day. When working with clients, teams, and projects, change is inevitable.

The good news is there is a way to manage and control change to reduce stress for the entire project team. In this article, we will provide you with some reasons why you should embrace change rather than avoid it, and how to control change in your visual workflow.

What is Change?

It sounds like a ridiculous question… But, the truth is that change can be defined in different ways, all of which can help us cope with and embrace change.

Allow us to explain…

Change can be broken down in three different ways: change vision, the sources of change, and the three states of change.

Change Vision

Let’s begin with change vision. When facing change, it’s important to see through how interruptive the change is and focus on the vision behind it.

Even in collaborative cultures where change is believed in and accepted by many, there should still be a level of effective change management involving the project team, project leader, and also the organization as a whole.

Sources of Change

What causes change? Let’s break it down. The top four sources of change include:

  1. The environment and the world as we know it
  2. Personal and life changes
  3. Financial changes
  4. The professional environment (the workplace, organization, and structure)

States of Change

Now let’s look at the three states of change:

  1. Current state – how things are done today
  2. Transition state – how you want to move from the current state to the future state
  3. Future state – how to do things in the future

How to Control Change

Now that you understand a little more about what change is, the different sources and states of change, and also how people react to it, how do you control it?

Let’s say you and your team are developing a custom application for a client. You have already laid out all the tasks and core functionalities and features that your client wants and have organized them in your backlog, according to priority.

One day, you get a phone call from your client. He explains that one of the features that were a lower priority (labeled a “version 2” feature), is now a priority. As the project manager, you immediately know that this will likely impact the project schedule by an extra sprint.

After you hang up with your client, it’s time to relay the news, which you are a little apprehensive about because you know it will spark fear and frustration across the team.

What do you do?

1. Review The Current State.

Before meeting with your team, you first take a look at your current project board to get a feel for overall project status. You and your team use a visual workflow, so you are easily able to see what is in progress, what is complete, and what is in the backlog.

2. Focus on the Change Vision.

When meeting with your team, calmly and clearly explain that there has been a change in feature priorities. Rather than explaining how the change will likely add an additional sprint (or possibly two) to the project schedule, focus on the overall vision of the change—how it will make the product better, how it will provide more value to the customer, and how awesome it will be if you and your team can pull it off.

By communicating these aspects to your team, they are more likely to feel motivated and positive about the change.

3. Reprioritize and Create Change Cards.

Once you have communicated the change in priorities to your team, the next step is to revisit your project board. In an agile environment, the feedback you receive from customers typically takes the form of change requests.

Therefore, it is important to clearly call out the cards in your visual workflow that are changes. You can do this by renaming the title of the card, adding actions, such as notifications, field updates, conditions, and so on. This will ensure that the necessary changes are better monitored and prioritized.

4. Plan Shorter Iterations.

Agile and adaptive environments typically plan their work in iterations (or “sprints”). This allows them to organize and plan their work according to priority tasks, effort points, or certain functionalities or features. Teams that plan shorter iterations are not only more productive, but they are also able to respond to change easier.

Why a Supportive Change Culture Matters

All in all, it isn’t necessarily always the change itself that becomes the risk. Assembling and working with a self-organizing team that is adaptive to and embraces change is the true key to success. Organizations that support and embrace change are in a better position to succeed in today’s competitive business environment.

We won’t lie… shifting your existing organization and teams to more of a collaborative and change culture isn’t easy, especially if your team members are “set in their ways”. As project leaders, this means you will have to encourage project team members to think like entrepreneurs, allowing for experimentation, exploration, and adaptability.

Adopting a change culture mindset can mean recruiting the right people, professionals who embrace change rather than fight against it. “Change champions” believe in the change, and want it to occur because they can see the vision behind it and also recognize the benefits.

Certainly, change initiatives can be time-consuming and costly. But for those that are up for the challenge, the rewards are plentiful and fulfilling. By approaching change management with the right mindset and approach, and monitoring and controlling it effectively, organizations can easily pull ahead of their competition.

Manage Change in Your Visual Workflow with Rindle

All in all, controlling change is important, but when using the agile method, it’s important to remain adaptable, and embrace change rather than avoid it “according to plan”. After all, understanding and meeting those conditions of satisfaction for customers and delivering that value will ensure overall project success.

If you are looking for a tool that effectively helps you plan and manage iterations, and allows you to easily view and control change, then give Rindle a try today.