The senior leadership decision, after three months of a waterfall approach, to now pivot the entire program and wider organization that it sits within to an Agile methodology of design and delivery is driven by three specific issues, namely:
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- the need for the newly formed organization, resourced with a high level of multiple contractor organizations alongside multiple government department employees, to collaborate more effectively across its internal boundaries to respond quickly and coherently to challenging national delivery timelines;
- the inordinate level of constant ambiguity in terms of the required inputs to inform the design and quality of its many outcome delivery products;
- the necessity to have the user-led design as a central tenet of that design and delivery to ensure the outcomes produced can meet the need of key delivery teams.
In such a way, in accordance with Carver’s definition, the scope and the nature of change indicates the existence of a “crisis”. This is in response to a national emergency to ensure adequate data tools are available within months that will enable predictive analysis and support timely interventions intended to support decision-making at both a national and local level.
Analyzing the case, it is possible to conclude that as against the previous program model, this one is complicated by multiple factors such as the complexity of the selected program. The scope of the issue is evidenced by the fact that there are no precedents that can be compared to it. At the same time, the unpredictability of outcomes introduces additional complexity as this factor affects motivation levels, adds a serious level of uncertainty, and affects decision-making. Moreover, the project of this nature presupposes the existence of multiple barriers and factors that can be considered problematic ones, such as volatile resource shortfalls, the low level of PPM maturity which comes from poor knowledge of similar projects, and the absence of efficient governance processes in place. That is why there is a high risk of failure or achievement of outcomes that cannot be viewed as acceptable.
The project recovery mechanism is also notably immature. A governance model is not yet in place, and its development will take more time than expected because of a lack of senior agreement on whether it should serve wider organizational decision-making or focus on priority delivery outcomes solely. Consequently, nothing that has proved substantial exists to ensure rigorous debates and decision making to assure delivery other than roundtable ad-hoc senior meetings and a challenge mechanism of external review by several external organizations blended with a leadership style that brings together the multiple SROs of other connected programs.
The Approach and Use
The Agile approach is assumed to lend itself well to the challenges in terms of encouraging multi-disciplinary collaboration across a range of colleagues quickly drawn together from various diverse organizations. What is less accepted is the strong alternative view within the program and wider organization that the proximity of delivery timescales for delivery of outputs is so pressing that the fast turnaround to use of Agile has created an unquantifiable risk that could have been largely avoided. Feedback from peers evidence that this view is held largely as a consequence of the anxiety related to lack of experience in the use of Agile methodologies amongst the Civil Service community versus high confidence within the consultancy community; inadequate knowledge transfer from the latter to the former and a degree of disappointment that the decision to pivot to Agile was without consultation, and so signaled a perception of the previous failure.
At the same time, it should be noted that the implementation of the Agile approach should come along with the correct realization of PMM maturity levels as they might directly impact the outcomes of the change process and its success. The overall organizational immaturity might introduce significant challenges to managing the problem and introducing substantial change to elements and activities vital for outcomes. For instance, the low maturity levels are characterized by the absence of standard actions for initiating specific processes, lack of governance activities in place, and poor prioritization of goals that should be achieved. At the same time, more mature organizations are characterized by the existence of a solid knowledge base needed to evaluate the current project opportunities and select the best possible options. In such a way, the choice of specific tools and models for change should be linked to the correct understanding of the existing PMM maturity levels as it preconditions the outcomes.
Speaking about the use of the Agile tool and its integration into the functioning of a specific organization with low PMM, its understanding and observation can be complex in terms of immaturity, which means that there is a need for additional tools and approaches that might help to overcome difficulties and attain the desired outcomes. For instance, Agile can be supported by a dense waterfall governance model that is more familiar to the leadership team and can help them to feel the lower level of stress when accomplishing the current goals. The decision to overlay the Agile model with this one is justified by the fact that it can help to segment tasks, structure them, and slow down the speed of delivery by fragmenting decision making and distributing tasks between other senior leaders responsible for strategic planning and decision-making.
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Regarding the 8-stage change management model by Kotter, every stage of change and project delivery is vital for outcomes. Thus, at the second and third stages, it is critical to build a powerful coalition and form a strategic vision of would-be alteration, its scope, and desired goals. For the current case characterized by the low PMM maturity level, it can be complicated because of the lack of knowledge, poor distribution of resources, and the absence of a correct vision of the future. For this reason, being a new approach, Agile, however, is capable of planning positive shifts and delivering desired outcomes. Although, there is no date for achieving final goals, the early sprints and the employment of the tool can be a sufficient and practical solution guaranteeing the needed change.
At the same time, as stated previously in Module 2, any organization in the stage of change experiences significant pressure from different factors. It also introduces a change to the environment and impacts specialists working in the organization. Considering low PMM levels, it can become a serious barrier for observing the 8-stage change model and attaining success (Kotter 41). However, I believe that regardless of these facts, the use of Agile can be helpful in terms of managing multiple fears and organizing specialists around specific ideas, and providing them with approaches that can help to function more effectively considering the pressure mentioned above.
Finally, my critical observations demonstrate that the Agile approach to planning can cause multiple bias views including enthusiasm and, at the same time, the resistance to change and the lack of desire to engage in new activities. For organizations at initial PMM maturity levels, it can have a pernicious impact on overall functioning and outcomes. For this reason, there is a need for more focus on effort a communication to ensure that managers are open to asking about the current needs of a team and trying to meet them. In such a way, I conclude that the application of Agile should be followed by specific measures to mitigate resistance and pressure as the immaturity of the organization demands additional focus on effort throughout all change processes and on all its stages.
The Program and Aspects
The program requires an ability to be user-centric and to plan both collaboratively and iteratively given the plethora of new capabilities that are demanded to support a wider stakeholder network and address an unpredictable problem regarding public health. Agile meets that need.
In general, there are several aspects that can be improved by using the selected approach. For instance, Kotter’s model emphasizes the need for the creation of a coalition and enlisting individuals who can take part in vital processes (Kotter 39). The use of Agile can introduce a significant positive change into this stage and enhance recruitment practices by replacing the traditional and less effective ones. For instance, at the moment, only local pool and applicants are considered by managers; however, the method provides an opportunity to use multi-source data streams from across multiple organizations including international; addressing, in rapid time, legalities preventing data share; numerous financial and commercial considerations and aligning staff resource modeling to ensure that the servicing of products produced is stress-tested for when scaling up of service delivery may be necessary over multiple UK locations at short notice. It guarantees that the demanded specialists with the expected skills can be found in short terms and with reasonable costs, which is vital for any change process.
Agile can also be effective in driving positive change in governance and reducing the levels of vagueness. In an undecided environment with the lack of effective governance models, the application of Agile can help to resolve legal, financial, and commercial issues by outlining the demand for the creation of the appropriate framework and facilitating the acceptance of the practical strategy vital for improved outcomes. In such a way, the planning activities of an organization can benefit from the application of an Agile tool that helps to mitigate some undesired issues.
The pool of workers with appropriate skills and competencies can also be another barrier that should be removed in accordance with the 8-stage model to generate short-term results. However, the current approach might demonstrate the decreased effectiveness because of the poor understanding of existing gaps and the need for new methods. Investing in appropriate rapid training would be beneficial to achieve two goals, such as to baseline Agile capability and, at the same time, improve the current state of the staff and outline the current problems that should be solved. Comprehensive assurance of everyone’s understanding of Agile would also present a surety that resourcing issues are reduced at times of peak leave, other absences, and any future churn.
Analyzing the organization, it is possible to conclude that the dominant leadership style is a hybrid of Manager and Entrepreneur, which are both essential for the following change. However, the rapidly changing working environment might create the basis for the potential failure in the future because of existing drawbacks in styles, lack of alignment, and insights. Under these conditions, the task to improve cooperation at senior levels and create an environment for better collaboration acquires the top priority. The Governance model, supported by the Agile tool, can help to initiate more emotional and intelligent debate at higher levels of management and increase the pool of strategies available for the company to select and employ. It will also help to reinforce the messaging between different departments and improve data exchange.
Finally, the current PPM maturity levels result in the lack of recognition of managing complexity in the content of data and population issues. It results in a poor understanding of current objectives and the need for additional instructions or explanations. The application of the selected method is expected to improve the current situation by facilitating positive change and introducing new levels of flexibility and resilience. Thus, the issues with population and data can decrease the level of motivation and engagement because of the inappropriate acknowledgment and appreciation. It can also create the basis for the growth of resistance to change and managerial decisions. In such a way, the application of the suggested approach can help to resolve these issues due to the multiple options for better population data management and exchange. It will guarantee improved rewards and increase motivation, which is vital for the achievement of the desired outcome.
Finally, board-level discussions can also be enhanced due to adherence to the discussed methodology. It will encourage senior managers to think beyond their usual style and become more interested in multiple issues that might impact activities affecting the progress and reduce the risk of failure. The future decision-making can also be optimized, which is central for the would-be change, and planning new activities demanded the achievement of new goals.
In such a way, the use of Agile along with the interim Governance approach agreed at a senior level can have a positive impact on the organization due to its opportunity to trigger multiple changes at different levels and meet the basic demands of the 8-stage change process.
Kotter, John. Leading Change. Harvard Business Review Press, 2012.