As an organizational change management (OCM) professional, managing the people side of change on an agile, fast-paced project is challenging to say the least. The production timeline is quick, broken down into iterative development sprints, with the goal of being in production as soon as possible. Therefore, a parallel, agile OCM model is a critical success factor so the business is ready by the release date. But, what does that agile OCM model look like? How do you lead change when you're smack in the middle of it yourself with only iterative glimpses of the final changed state?

I found the key is disciplined story time. Yep, story time. Let me explain.

Leading by reading

To lead change from the beginning of each sprint, as opposed to reacting to change post-sprint, you must keep pace with the iterations of revealed change during development, or risk either delaying the production delivery, or deploying before the business is ready. So, the primary OCM task every sprint should be to assess change impact from the stories that are pulled in.

What's in a story?

An agile story is a bite-sized requirement. If written correctly, the story provides the "who", "what", "why", and "how" of change for that requirement when it goes into production. For example, the beginning of the story should be written, "As a(n) , I need to so that ." The end of the story should contain the acceptance criteria, which tells you how the requirement must perform in order to pass as complete by the end of the sprint. Now you have the ingredients to assess impact.

Assess the Impact

I've found it easiest to assess each story's impact by thinking it through the categories of people, process, and system (where the issues can generate), across the areas of business operations, the organization, and leadership. For example, ask yourself, "Does this story impact leadership? Business operations? People? Processes? Systems? Where the answer is "yes", then brainstorm the detailed impact of change using the 5 "W's" (who, what, why, where, when).

Lead Change!

With the impact details captured, you can update the readiness activities needed into the ongoing OCM plan. At the end of the sprint, attend a sprint playback (demonstration), and validate your assessments based on what stories were accepted.

So far, this process has proven very successful for me as a means of leading, not following, change sprint by sprint.