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Enabling organizational agility

Blog posted by: Milvio di Bartolomeo, 02 April 2020.

cartoon graphic image of hands adding Post-Its and notes in highlighter pen to Kanban board for organzation's agile project work

To be successful in the current environment of rapid, concurrent and never-ending change, organizations must grow their agility not just to thrive, but to survive. Agility is the ability across an organization to move and adapt quickly. A high degree of organizational agility can help any organization to react successfully to the emergence of new competitors, the development of new industry-changing technologies, or sudden shifts in overall volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) market conditions.

AgileSHIFT® is guidance to help individuals and organizations prepare for transformational shift by creating a culture of enterprise agility. It states that organizations that aspire to be truly agile focus their collective work effort towards meeting the constantly evolving customer and market needs. This is done by better leveraging technology, people and assets.

Technology is now seen a key enabler and driver of digital transformation, fundamentally changing how organizations operate and deliver benefits and value to customers. It requires everyone responsible for change across the organizations to continually challenge the status quo, experiment and get comfortable with disruption and failure. However, to improve organizational agility, there are several things that leadership, senior and middle management need to do differently:

1. Do Less – Organizations should create focus by limiting work-in-progress at an enterprise level, eliminate non-value added waste, and do less in parallel whilst keeping things simple to optimise flow of desired changes through the system.

2. Explore and Adapt – Organizations should encourage and enable a flexible and adaptable approach to a shifting environment where exploration can be done under controlled conditions before full organizational roll out if required. So rather than explicitly follow a plan at any level, learn to collectively explore in a safe environment and adapt by reflecting and improving.

3. Reflect and Improve – Think about what the organization has collectively learned from its endeavours to provide value to the customer. So the right way to fail means doing it quickly, inexpensively and never the same way twice.

4. One Team, One Goal – Cross-functional and collaborative teams that span across organizational silos are vital to the delivery of effective agile ways of working and value co-creation. So avoid silos by establishing product oriented, co-located, multi-disciplined teams with shared purpose.

5. Focus On Value – Value is not something that we create and then pass to a customer. Together with the customer, organizations co-create value. So focus on value to the customer above all else by building the right product and services and delivering value earlier and incrementally.

6. Empower Teams – Everyone in the organization should be a change-enabler, empowered to identify and respond to opportunities for greater value delivery levels. So leaders should inspire and engage, provide opportunity for intrinsic motivators of autonomy, mastery and purpose.

7. Accept Hard Truths – Transparency and communication is vital as it allows everyone to see and understand what is truly happening to reflect and improve. So be open, accept difficult messages, support the team in resolving them; transparency doesn’t solve your problems, it highlights them.

8. Think Big, Start Small, Fail Fast and Learn Fast – Have the vision but deliver it in small bite-sized pieces. Shorter distinct phases or stages allows organizations to take heed of where they are now (the “baseline”), where they want to be (the “desired target state”) and determine how best to get there with a flexible plan.

9. Collaborate – Is the act of working collectively together, with shared purpose, across the organization to achieve a shared goal. However, it is the ability to respond quickly that helps to motivate and optimize individual, team and organizational performance.

10. Lead By Example – It’s about setting the right example for others and be a source of inspiration. As such, leadership is a process in which an individual influences the behaviour and attitudes of other people. So be the leader that other people want to follow. Many organizations are seeking to transform the way they work by encouraging the whole organization to be comfortable with, and more importantly embracing the need for change and better ways of working. This is necessary so that the organization can respond in the most effective way to any disruption, as well as creating an environment and a culture of agility that is responsive to all forms of change.


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