10 Powerful Ways to Conquer the Fear of Change with Agile

Are you fearful of change in the workplace? Do you know people in your office who are afraid of business transformation?

If so, what technology or methodologies are you employing to help and counter those fears?

Many companies are starting to consider Agile methodologies for transforming the way their businesses work. The key is to identify the client and understand their concerns.

Some people will feel really excited and will embrace the idea of something new but others will need special attention during the change process.

Rather than pushing people to accept ideas, we should understand why they are defending the status quo and what is it about new environments that unsettle them.

The number one reason is ‘FEAR’ and below are ten common reasons why one might resist change and my thoughts on how to overcome them.

1. Fear of Failure

When we embark on something new, we think, what if it doesn’t work?

For any novel idea, there’s always a chance it might not be successful and for some people failure is just not an option and that’s because we are wired to view it as negative.

As an Agile coach, I encourage ‘quick‘ failure, better known as ‘Fail Fast’.  We do this by performing tasks in small chunks and applying research around it to gain some feedback from our end-users, while keeping in mind the bigger picture.

When something appears to fail, we need to understand why so that we can begin to consider other options or go back to the drawing board.

The sooner we understand that failure is fine, the sooner we can get on with our plans to succeed.

2. Old Habits Die Hard

We are all creatures of habit and for some, initiating a change means ‘no more doing what you are used to doing’ and this can create a sensation of unease.  Remember the classic story Who Moved My Cheese?

Another reason might be because they’ve done it before with little to no success.

Leaving old habits behind and initiating new ones can be hard but it’s not impossible and when implementing Agile practices it’s worth applying some simple rules to help gradually reduce old habits and form new ones.

3. No Need to Change

When a company decides to introduce change, there will be a handful of people who think ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it‘.

Now this rings true in some circumstances, but in the context of switching to Agile as a methodology, I would say that it might not be broke, but we might be falling behind the times.

The thing about old habits is that many of us are settled in our daily routine, read how Kodak experienced a barrier to change when digital cameras were introduced.

4. Loss of Control

Senior leaders may feel a loss of control when a change to become Agile is announced and this is because they are used to a ‘Command and Control’ style of working.

Team members can also fear a loss of control because they might be used to being told what to do and Agile introduces a flatter structure where everyone is expected to contribute.

When introducing Agile, we are allowing teams to make joint, informed decisions based around everyone’s skills in a collaborative environment.

Those in more senior roles should engage with their teams in Agile ceremonies and try to loosen the reins.

This will empower their people and allow them to be more open to sharing their ideas, identifying issues and forming joint decisions agreed by the majority.

This level of trust inspires teams to perform better because they have had a say in the development of a desired outcome.

5. Personal Impact

When change happens, some people fear for their positions in the company or fear that the way they are perceived might change.

They may start to feel insecure and concerned they may no longer be needed. They might get left behind or have to give up something they enjoy doing.

The reality of this is that when change occurs, it’s an opportunity to learn new skills, new technologies, introduce new processes, find better ways of working and adding more strings to your bow.

Agile also brings a work/life balance and this is because when we estimate work, we are estimating based on the availability of our teams availability and commitments.

Look at what you can do when there are many ways of creating an extra hour in your day, every day.

6. Closed Mindedness

When someone is closed minded it’s not going to be easy to persuade them to support the new strategy despite others around them embracing it.

This individual is likely to go on about their business and will often attempt to prevent changes from happening.

The good news is that we just need to leave them be BUT, you must include them in all your plans and take on board what they have to say because they could still add value.

While leading projects I have encountered individuals who refuse to get involved but eventually, find themselves feeling foolish when they notice how other are embracing the change and doing well.

So the trick is to do well, keep on doing what you are doing, keep them in the loop and leave them be until they realise they are getting left behind.

Soon enough they will see what they are missing out on and rather than trying to beat you, they are likely to join you.

7. Unwilling to Learn New Things

Another tricky person to deal with is the one who refuses to learn new things, and once again we can only speculate on the reasons why.

In this instance, the best thing would be to ask why and consider supporting them with training courses, mentoring or some other form of development.

I recall a time when a person in my team refused to change because he thought that his strategy was strong and the team didn’t need improvements.

I called upon subject matter experts to train, support and explain the reason why we need to implement this particular change and a year on, he’s now at the top of his game as an Agile expert.

I feel that people who are reluctant to learn something new impede the organization’s growth and adaptation to change, and they also hinder their own personal growth and development so support is what’s needed here.

8. Sceptical about Change

When change is introduced in the workplace, some people will question the motivation behind it and also the likelihood of its success.

Many people are cynical to changes and often believe that ‘it’s not going to work’.

In cases like this, rather than just introducing change and hoping for the best, it’s important to be open and transparent as to why change is occurring and what your strategy looks like.

Allow your teams to vocalise their concerns and point of view, reassuring them that the decision to change has been well thought through.  Adopt a data driven approach that supports you.

This leaves little room for fear and speculation in the office and chances are your team is more likely to embrace the change.

9. Fear of the Unknown

The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown. – H. P. Lovecraft

Finishing university, starting a new job, being made redundant, getting fired, starting a new business, changing a business process, starting a new project are all unknowns to begin with, but have you noticed that we’ve all found our way in the end?

In many cases people may resist change simply because it is something unfamiliar and not knowing much about the specifics of the change, individuals may imagine a worst case scenario, which can be very scary.

The key here is regular, open and constant communication across the board highlighting your projects progress, be that good, bad or ugly (of course being mindful to more sensitive issues).

When individuals are kept informed, it triggers a thought process about what’s on the horizon and allows them to prepare for this change.

It helps find questions and answers among the team that we may have not thought of independently.

10. Getting Caught Out

Resistance to change may be rooted in fear and for some people they might fear they will need to work harder or even work less and not get recognition for their efforts.

In other cases they might find that they have been getting away with doing nothing and this will now change.

During periods of change, some employees may feel the need to cling to the past because it was a more secure, predictable time and the thought of change instills this type of fear.

The thing about Agile ways of working is that it’s not there to catch people out, instead it works as an integrated support system that bonds the team and allows individuals to be more transparent about potential issues that might arise.


So there you have it – ten reasons why people fear change in the workplace and how to conquer them.

With the right tools and proper transformation methods into Agile, you can make some very powerful and positive changes to your company and the people.



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  1. Bablofil June 14, 2017 at 10:49 pm

    Thanks, great article.

    1. sthaker June 24, 2017 at 1:53 pm

      Thank you! =)

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