Project Management

Want More Innovation? Manage For Change

Mass Bay Chapter

Johanna Rothman works with companies to improve how they manage their product development. She is the author of Manage Your Project Portfolio: Increase Your Capacity and Finish More Projects, 2nd edition, Agile and Lean Program Management: Scaling Collaboration Across the Organization as well as several other books including the newest: Create Your Successful Agile Project: Collaborate, Measure, Estimate, Deliver. See her blogs and more of her writing at

Many agile teams experience conflict with their managers. The managers want the team to define all the requirements up front, estimate them, and explain when the whole project will finish—even though the team (and the managers) know the requirements will change. Often, that’s because the organization has a change management process. The managers like that change management process.

Instead of change management, what if your team and your managers could manage for change? How different would your team, project and organization be if you optimized for change?

Let’s first discuss why we might have wanted a change process in the past.

Change Processes Helped Manage Risk
Before agile projects, many projects used stage-gate (a serial lifecycle), iterative or incremental lifecycles. Especially in a stage-gate or any other serial approach, teams needed to manage the inevitable risks when they discovered late changes. These risks meant the project was in danger of not finishing.

Frank, an experienced project manager, explained his organization’s change process for their stage-gate lifecycle this way:

“We used a variety of ‘freeze’ milestones to help manage change:

  • Architectural freeze to try to manage the architecture changes. We couldn’t move past architecture until we’d done a complete architectural review.

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Sometimes I think war is God's way of teaching us geography.

- Paul Rodriguez