How to Deal With Employee Resistance During Agile Implementation
The modern workplace is a combination of people from different generations who have varying workplace ideals. Some people prefer to strongly believe that the traditional method is the best way to work. The younger generation, meanwhile, mostly believes in a flexible work environment that is more inclined towards ‘agile’.
With vast differences in the way of working between individuals, it can be a tough problem to introduce the agile way of working. Before we talk about employee resistance in the workforce to become agile, let’s see how agile benefits the organization.
How Agile Triumphs Over Traditional Way of Working
The traditional team typically consists of a manager under whom you can see different employees with numerous roles like Java developers, analysts, testers, etc. The functioning of this traditional team will follow the hierarchical approach, where the manager sits at the center and has total control of the whole operations.
On the other hand, agile teams are self-managed, where cross-functional working among different teams is the key. Instead of a single person sitting at the top and giving out orders or supervising the work, the team players also take part equally in the decision-making process. They decide who the best fit for the role is and determine the tasks everyone needs to play.
In the end, everyone is involved in the project as a whole instead of just having a partial vision of the project from their working scope. This also improves the accountability of the team members. It will motivate them to get involved better in the project and improve their performance, as well as the project results.
The Need for a Flexible Workforce
According to the workplace trends prediction by Dan Schawbel in Forbes in 2017, he pointed out that there is going to be a high demand for a flexible work environment and that the organizations will face pressure from the young employees to embrace flexibility.
Also, he pointed out the flexibility is the top employee benefit over healthcare in the years 2015 and 2016, but only one-third of the organizations are implementing it seriously. Further, the organizations that do focus on agile systems do so to align their working to match the customer needs.
The reason for some organizations that don’t enforce an agile way of working can be due to the traditional mindset of top management. However, one of the most common reasons is the fear of resistance among employees.
Employee Resistance towards an Agile Approach
While implementing agile in a workforce, things don’t go as planned. Some may face unexpected resistance from certain sections of employees, which could affect the performance at the initial stages. There can be clashes, miscommunications, and issues between employees due to the resistance from some.
This behavior is mainly due to the employee’s misinformed notions about agile practices. The employees may have difficulty in accepting the new changes in the working systems when they don’t understand how they can be benefited from it. For some who are familiar with the same system, it can be difficult to come out from the years of familiar working methods and embrace the new system of agile.
However, such resistance from employees doesn’t mean the end of agile. With a few help from the top management, the employees can be convinced to look at all the advantages agile brings.
Here are a few ideas to overcome employee resistance and bring a coordinated agile way of working in the organization.
• Anticipate and Manage Resistance Before It Crops Up
When you break the news about the changes in working methods, you’ll have an idea of the people who will oppose them the most. There can be a few who are on the fence – not very happy about the change but open to accepting it. But the few who are steadfast against the agile implementation may easily turn those people, too.
To avoid the increased resistance, talk with the managers and identify the few people who are totally against the opposition and address the issue with them first. When you can neutralize these few instances, then you can minimize and manage the resistance from other employees easily.
• Avoid Overnight Transformation
Understandably, you want to incorporate the agile systems as soon as you can. But, asking the employees to wake up one day and suddenly start working the agile way isn’t going to work.
It is necessary to incorporate the agile processes incrementally. Start slow and ask the employees to make a few changes. Once they become familiar with it, proceed to the next level. Break down the agile implementations into different phases and gradually ease the employees into it. This will give them a practical idea of how much an agile system helps them to complete their work efficiently. It’s one way to lessen employee resistance, too.
• Be Open to Address Questions
Employees will have many questions in their minds about how this implementation could influence their work life. It is the responsibility of the organization to answer the questions in the best possible and convincing way. It is their duty to encourage more employees to be open towards agile.
You can have an open session with the employees. Let everyone have their chance to ask questions or even just to talk about how they feel. This is a crucial primary step to show the employees how much you care about them and make them understand that the first people who would benefit from the new system is them – the employees.
If you have any people in the organization who have previously worked in the agile environment, you can also encourage them to talk about its advantages and let the employees see how it can impact their work life.
• Address the Gaps in Technology
You need to provide the employees with the required technologies if you expect them to stick to agile. The agile system depends a lot on the flexibility of the employees to work from anywhere they want and includes the freelance workforce, too. When your technology doesn’t support your intentions, then the employees will crawl back to the only other working system – the traditional way.
When you have decided to implement agile, it is vital to do property research and analysis on the technologies your organization has and the additional ones it may need. You can either slowly start including some before you implement agile or break the news of agile with the good news of the beneficial technologies.
• Include Routine Checks and Weekly Assistance
Not all employees can understand the essence of agile easily. They may get some doubts once they start working. Therefore, there should be someone in the organization they can talk to and clear their doubts.
After implementing agile, make sure to include routine checks to see if everyone is working properly. The checks should also identify employees who are struggling to change their way of working. Offer them unlimited assistance until they are entirely comfortable to work with the agile system.
There are no do-overs when it comes to agile implementation. When you do it, make sure that you are doing it right. Employee resistance is a part of any change. Making the employees see the new system’s advantages lies with the organization. If that’s done successfully, then the agile processes can revolutionize the organizational performance.