Who is Your Change Management Advisor?

The past 12 months have either walloped businesses with the gnarliest set of challenges in recent decades or given them access to the most valuable opportunities of the past 50 years. 

Selecting which description is more apt to your organization hinges on your unique situation and your perspective. Amid all the disruptions and changes we’re experiencing; I’ve found it useful to keep my perspective as flexible as possible. For example, while I learned and initially practiced agile as a software development process, I’ve come to see the approach as a highly effective change management tool. 

My view is that agile can help all business leaders, including those in IT and tax, guide their teams through periods of intense uncertainty. And I’m not alone. 

Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Korn Ferry’s Sarah Jensen Clayton identifies several ways organizations can develop an agile approach to change management. I appreciate that Clayton’s perspective on agile change management differs from mine: hers is rooted in crisis management and culture transformation. Despite coming at agile from different starting points, we both view self-organizing teams, lots of testing and learning, and receptivity to changing requirements among other agile activities as good ways to foster change management. 

If you frown at the term “change management,” I don’t blame you. As Clayton writes, “traditional change management – often characterized by heavy process, lengthy timelines, and clunky rollouts – won’t cut it right now.” Agile approaches are better suited to navigating through periods of heavy disruptions and sudden changes. Think back to the ways in which your team, department and/or company managed the sudden shift to remote work last year. I’ll bet there were plenty of adjustments to your initial vision for remote work; lots of informal communications channels; daily assessments of which practices should be scrapped, refined and/or shared more widely; and regular test runs that yielded actionable improvement insights (“sprints” in agile terminology). 

One of the best pieces of guidance that Clayton outlines is sharing information. She suggests that organizations cultivate an internal team of change experts, as well as an external network of change management advisors. I’ve found value in applying a similar approach on a more personal level, and you can, too: Who can you compare notes with concerns on what works best when leading teams past obstacles to the new opportunities arising during this intense period of change? 

As you explore those opportunities, keep in mind that:

  • Necessity is the mother of invention. 
  • Being nimble often means changing a few smaller things — not big-picture items.
  • Quantifiable chunks are a good organizing principle (and a way to measure progress).
  • Never assume that a new method will be perfect. 
  • We can’t look back and say what if. 
  • We can’t manage change on a big scale, but we can do it little by little. 

The last point is especially important given that the perceived magnitude of a change often causes more stress than executing small discrete steps. You can dissolve that larger stress via smaller changes.

Finally, keep in mind that the more constraints that are put on us, the more we can grow and succeed.  The constraints we’ve all encountered in the past year or so can serve as motivational factors that nudge us out of our comfort zones so that we can innovate more in the months ahead.

Explore more Resources from our Industry Influencers:

Venkatesh Jayaraman: Vice President of Commercial Software Engineering at Vertex Inc. Vertex delivers the world’s most valued tax solutions for companies to connect, transact, and comply while growing their business.

Venkatesh Jayaraman

Vice President, Commercial Software Engineering

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Venkatesh Jayaraman is the Vice President of Commercial Software Engineering responsible for providing strategic direction and technical leadership for the entire software engineering organization including user experience (UX). He is also responsible for the Agile product management organization (PMO), Cloud Operations, and Systems Automation areas of the company.

Venkatesh is a senior technology and software development executive with over two decades of industry experience and an extraordinary record of success in technical leadership, cross-functional product development, and software architecture. Prior to joining Vertex, Venkatesh was in various leadership roles at Citrix Systems and Motorola where he led Agile and cloud transformation across the core engineering and product development organizations. He is experienced in Lean-Agile practices and has a proven record of building business agility while managing large scale enterprise organizations across multiple geographies.

Venkatesh holds a Master's degree in Engineering Management from University of Florida, Gainesville, and a Bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering from India’s National Institute of Technology.

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