Managers resist their 3rd organizational transformation — What can you do?
Management resistance reasons, expression, and how to address them
Leading an Agile transformation in a company that has already undergone two transformations recently is a complex and challenging task for consultants who work with management. Top managers may be skeptical of new approaches and resistant to change due to previous experience with failed initiatives. Middle managers may feel threatened by the changes, particularly if they perceive that their roles or responsibilities may be impacted.
Consultants must navigate these challenges and work closely with management to build support for Agile and help organizations to realize the benefits of this approach. In this article, we will explore proven strategies for successfully leading Agile transformations in organizations that have undergone multiple change initiatives.
Management resistance reasons
Management of a company that has already undergone two previous transformations may resist a 3rd Agile transformation for a variety of reasons. Managers may have previous negative experience and be afraid of failure, have skepticism and misconceptions, not see benefits and applicability, have positive experience with current ways of working, have got used to directive leadership style and afraid of losing control, or they lack resources.
Here are some potential reason for which management may resist an Agile transformation in more detail:
- Change fatigue: Managers that have already experienced two transformations in the past would be fatigued to yet another change initiative.
- Fear of failure: Management may be hesitant to pursue another transformation if they believe that the previous attempts were not successful.
- New technical debt from previous attempts: If the company has undergone two previous transformations, they may have accumulated technical debt that will need to be addressed as part of the new Agile transformation.
- Lack of understanding: Managers may not fully understand Agile and its benefits. They may be skeptical about its applicability to their team or may not see how it can improve their current processes.
- Lack of perceived urgency: Menagers may feel that their current processes are sufficient and that there is no pressing need to change. Without a clear sense of the benefits that Agile can bring, there may be little incentive to take on the risks and challenges of adopting a new methodology.
- Desire to maintain the status quo: Managers may be comfortable with the current way of working, especially if the organization is already achieving moderate success with their current approach.
- Management may have misconceptions about what Agile is and how it works. They may have a limited understanding of Agile and see it as a set of prescriptive rules rather than a flexible and adaptable mindset.
- Fear of job loss: Managers may be worried that Agile will make their role redundant and that it will result in job loss.
- Fear of responsibilities reduction: They may feel threatened by the prospect of Agile and may be concerned that it will result in a reduction in their responsibilities, or that they will not have a clear role in the new way of working.
- Resistance to sharing power: Managers may be used to a hierarchical management style, and may resist the idea of sharing power with their team members.
- Fear of losing control: They may be concerned about losing control over their team. They may be concerned about losing their ability to make decisions and dictate how work is done.
- Lack of trust: They may not trust their team members to make decisions.
- Concerns about the disruption: They may worry that the changes in processes and ways of working could lead to decreased performance, have a negative impact on productivity during the transition, or that employees may struggle to adapt to the new practices.
- Lack of resources: Management may be concerned about the cost of an Agile transformation, including the investment required for training and coaching, as well as the potential disruption to business operations during the transition. They may be worried about investing resources in a new transformation that may not yield the desired outcomes.
- Fear of losing employees: Мanagers may be concerned about the potential impact on the team’s morale and motivation, as well as the risk of losing key employees.
- Prioritizing short-term results: Managers may be focused on short-term results and may not see the long-term benefits of Agile and the value in investing in an Agile transformation.
- Cultural resistance (this fits to any transformation): The existing culture of the organization may not be aligned with Agile values and principles, which could make it difficult to implement new ways of working.
Management resistance expression
Managers may show resistance to an Agile transformation in a variety of ways, and they may take different actions depending on their specific concerns and objections. Here are some examples of actions management may undertake to resist an Agile transformation:
- Undermining the Agile transformation: Managers may undermine the Agile transformation by criticizing or questioning its value, or by not providing adequate support or resources to the transformation team. For example, if a manager is asked to assign a subordinate to a cross-functional change team, he may assign the least competent one. They may also discourage team members from embracing Agile practices.
- Refusing to participate in Agile practices: Managers may refuse to participate in Agile practices, such as attending Quarter planning or Review, by ignoring or pushing back on them. This can send a message to employees that Agile in whole is not valued or taken seriously by the management.
- Delaying or canceling the transformation: Managers may drag their feet or delay making a decision about the Agile transformation, or they may cancel it altogether.
- Insisting on existing processes: Managers may insist on using traditional management practices, such as detailed project plans and top-down decision-making, rather than embracing Agile principles like iterative planning and self-organizing teams. They may be reluctant to adapt to new ways of working. For example, they may be hesitant to adopt new tools or technologies, or may resist changes to how work is prioritized and managed.
- Refusing to delegate decision-making authority: Managers may resist the idea of sharing decision-making authority with their team members. They may want to maintain control over their team and may not trust their team members to make decisions.
- Prioritizing their own interests over the team’s interests. For example, they may be more concerned with their own performance metrics than with the success of the team, or they may resist changes that they perceive as threatening to their own status or job security.
- Focusing on short-term results: Managers may prioritize short-term results over long-term benefits, and may resist Agile if they believe it will slow down ****or disrupt current business operations.
Overcoming management resistance
There are several ways a consultant can overcome the obstacles of leading an Agile transformation in a company that has already undergone two previous transformations. Here are some strategies:
- Involve stakeholders in the transformation process — the design and implementation of Agile practices. This can help to build buy-in and trust among stakeholders and ensure that the new practices are aligned with the needs of the organization.
- Engage with stakeholders to identify and address their concerns, objections and misconceptions about the Agile transformation. This can involve one-on-one conversations, group meetings, or other forms of communication to ensure that stakeholders feel heard and understood.
- Work with key stakeholders to develop a shared vision and roadmap for the transformation that aligns with the organization’s strategic goals and objectives.
- This vision should be communicated clearly and regularly to all stakeholders to ensure everyone is on board.
- Help the organization identify the necessary resources and budget required to successfully implement Agile.
- Educate and coach stakeholders to help them understand the benefits of Agile and how it can improve their work environment and productivity. The training should be tailored to the needs of different stakeholders, such as top managers, middle managers, and employees. Provide them with data and case studies of successful Agile transformations.
- Help managers understand their new role in an Agile environment and
- Work with stakeholders to build trust and collaboration with their team members.
- Work with the transformation team to create a feedback loop.
- Provide them with opportunities to share their thoughts and opinions, and contribute to the design and implementation of Agile practices.
- Work with the organization to create a culture of openness and trust, where employees feel comfortable providing feedback and raising concerns. This can help to ensure that managers are aware of any issues and can work with the transformation team to address them in a timely and effective manner.
- Help managers build collaboration with their team members.
- Address accumulated technical debt: work with the organization to identify, prioritize and address it in a structured and incremental way. Ensure that the Agile teams are aware of the technical debt, and provide them with the necessary support to handle it.
- Establish metrics to measure the progress of the Agile transformation and communicate this progress regularly to stakeholders. This can help to build confidence in the transformation and demonstrate the value of Agile practices.
- Address cultural resistance: Identify the existing culture and values, and assess how well they align with Agile principles. Then together with the organization create a culture change plan to address cultural barriers, which could include activities such as training, coaching, and creating a safe-to-fail environment.
- Foster a culture of continuous improvement within the organization by encouraging stakeholders to experiment with new practices and processes and learn from both successes and failures.
- Finally, provide ongoing support and communication to ensure that managers feel heard and supported throughout the transformation process.
the key to overcoming resistance to an Agile transformation is to build trust and collaboration among stakeholders — to involve employees and stakeholders in the transformation process, and to create a shared vision and roadmap for the transformation.
Consultants can play an important role in this process by providing expertise, guidance, and support to help stakeholders navigate the challenges of change. The consultant should also be highly skilled in Agile and change management, communication, leadership, and be able to communicate the benefits of Agile in a way that resonates with the organization.