How to optimize an Agile Transformation


using the 5 stages of grief



By Teresa Ramos

Salamanca, Spain


Gunash Kamzaevi

Baku, Azerbaijan


This article explores the positive outcomes of a mentorship under the UNDP Women in STEM program. In the first part of the article, Gunash Kamzaevi, a UX researcher in a call center software team at a bank, talks about the difficulties she faces when implemented changes, some of them requested by users. In the second part of the article, mentor Teresa Ramos explains the 5 stages of grief and how a software team that works using agile methods can use them to easy the implementation and uptake of changes by users.

The story shares practical lessons learned in this mentorship process, giving valuable insights for people in the tech and project management world.


Embarking on a UX research journey within a call center software team, the struggle to facilitate user-friendly changes became evident. Users, initially resistant and disheartened by modifications, exhibited an emotional journey akin to the “5 Stages of Grief” model. Introduced by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, this model encapsulates stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and ultimately, acceptance. Through the lens of these stages, users’ reactions were mirrored: resistance, frustration, bargaining for old features, despondency, and eventual acceptance. To navigate this terrain successfully, it’s imperative to respect these stages, embrace empathy, communicate transparently, and grant users the time needed to progress through these emotions, ensuring a smoother transition and heightened user satisfaction.

Being Agile: From users’ perspective

Gunash: When I began my journey as a UX researcher within a digital software team at a call center, I initially underestimated the gravity of the situation. My task was to delve into the software’s usability, a venture that involved visits to call centers for observations and agent interviews. Two skilled UX designers accompanied me during this research endeavor, but the results were far from satisfactory. Right from the outset, we encountered an overwhelming sense of negativity towards the product team. Call center agents were not only frustrated but also disinclined to offer assistance. Comments like, “What’s the point? They’re not going to do anything anyway,” and “I reported this bug weeks ago, but it seems no one cares,” were frequently heard. The agents were uncooperative and felt unheard.

Moreover, significant communication issues loomed large between the software team and the head of the call center department, the stakeholders. The call center comprised roughly 200 agents, with the most experienced ones working remotely while only interns or freshly recruited agents were in the office. This introduced a research bias since I had to conduct face-to-face interviews at the office, primarily obtaining feedback from interns who didn’t have access to all facets of the software. Initially, with the assistance of the two designers, it took us a considerable amount of effort, spanning one or two full days, to persuade agents to participate in interviews. In the end, we collected a mere 20-25 responses, most of which were not particularly helpful.

In response, I decided to forge a robust communication channel that would encourage users to freely share their feedback. This ultimately brought us to a point where I could conduct research online with nearly full attendance from all agents, enabling them to share their insights without constraints…


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How to cite this article: Ramos, T. and Kamzaevi, G.  (2024).  How to optimize an Agile Transformation using the 5 stages of grief, PM World Journal, Vol. XIII, Issue I, January.  Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/pmwj137-Jan2024-Ramos-Kamzaevi-How-to-optimize-an-Agile-Transformation-3.pdf

About the Authors

Teresa Ramos

Salamanca, Spain


Teresa Ramos is a senior executive with a diverse background bridging technology, business, and academia. Armed with degrees in theoretical physics, music, telecommunications engineering, and an executive MBA, Teresa has over 23 years of executive experience with global tech giants like British Telecom, Vodafone, Telefónica, and Siemens. Her leadership roles were pivotal in driving digital transformations at BT Europe and Infineon, part of Siemens, where she spearheaded innovation initiatives company wide. Trilingual in Spanish, English, and German, Teresa’s global outlook is enhanced by her extensive work in various countries and collaboration with prestigious academic and public institutions like Harvard University, where she is a Fellow at the IoC (Institute of Coaching), Stanford University, where she is an Innovation Champion and United Nations where she is a mentor and trainer. She is based in Spain and works globally.

Teresa helps leaders navigate the complexities of the digital world, fostering innovation and Agile leadership.  She can be contacted at (4) Teresa Ramos Martin | LinkedIn


Gunash Kamzaevi

Baku, Azerbaijan


Gunash Kamzaevi is a seasoned professional with a robust background in economics and research. Holding a position as a full-time senior User Experience (UX) researcher in one of the largest retail bank in Azerbaijan, Gunash is also a research fellow at the Economic Scientific Research Institute, specializing in digitalization, innovation, and entrepreneurship policy analysis. As a UX researcher, she has cultivated expertise in understanding user behaviors, preferences, and needs to enhance digital products and services. Gunash’s expertise extends to collaborating with local and international companies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and government entities.  Born and raised in a small town in Georgia, she has embarked on a professional journey that led to relocation to Baku, Azerbaijan where she now lives and works. She can be contacted via LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/gunash-kamzaevi-a9aa19a3?utm_source=share&utm_campaign=share_via&utm_content=profile&utm_medium=android_app