Embarking on the Journey of Agile Transformation

Sep 3, 2020 |
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Whether your business is looking to avoid extinction or to capitalize on new opportunities, you must recognize that business agility and collaboration are the sine qua non for recognizing financial rewards from high-speed, incremental delivery of risk-free value at scale.

Achieving such agility requires you to reconfigure strategy, structure, practices, people and technology so that your organization can renew and succeed in a rapidly changing and uncertain environment. Although the scale of Agile transformation can be daunting, there’s increasing recognition that the only real options are when and how to transform, not whether.

Building a Framework for Business Agility

Yet, some organizations tend to replace the aim of achieving agility with “implementing Agile.” Simply forcing Agile processes onto existing systems without putting the necessary structures, technology, strategy and change management practices in place to support them will likely create institutional resistance, increased bureaucracy and depleted talent. This short-sighted approach will eventually erode opportunities to create and protect value.

Leaders need to learn that an Agile transformation isn’t a project or an initiative, but rather a journey that you embark upon. It’s a way of thinking that is fundamentally different from the bureaucratic command-and-control approach of a traditional organization.

Becoming a Master Gardener, Not a Chess Master

In the journey of Agile transformation, leaders champion their organization’s progress toward business agility through an iterative approach of continuously testing, learning and adapting their Agile practices. Depending on the size and complexity of the organization, such transformations require leaders to provide the inspiration, energy, guidance and time that is needed to eventually evolve the culture of agility and the Agile mindset throughout the entire organization.

Leaders must unlearn what it means to be a leader and instead view effective leadership through the lens of an Agile mindset.

As General Stanley McChrystal explains in his book Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World, effective leaders are gardeners who foster an environment of growth and smart autonomy, not chess masters with move-by-move control. Often, this means leaders must unlearn what it means to be a leader and instead view effective leadership through the lens of an Agile mindset. This process of “shared consciousness” challenges individuals at all levels as they adapt to the story of change in their own context and align it with the overall goal of business agility.

Avoiding the Trap of ‘Fake Agile’ Transformation

As organizations learn and adapt their way through the Agile transformation journey, leaders must take extraordinary care to de-risk the possibility that Agile will get dumbed down to become just another set of efficiency tools—or worse, to become a policing tool for head-count management. “Fake Agile” transformations drive organizations down the spiral of demotivation and waste, leaving them worse off than when they started.

The End of the Journey Is a Mirage

As the structures and practices that support operating in an Agile environment fall into place, individuals and leaders might mistakenly think the quest for agility is largely over, leading to complacency and having Agile teams ease into “cruise control” mode. The very principles and practices that enabled business agility now risk becoming bottlenecks. The Agile journey doesn’t end with operational agility; it simply opens the door to the next frontier of business agility, namely strategic agility.

Today, it’s not the large organizations eating the small. It’s the fast ones eating the slow.

To get to strategic agility, organizations must continue internalizing the Agile mindset to evolve the practices and adapt them to their own circumstances. The Agile mindset must become woven into the very fabric of the organization’s culture. With this higher level of business agility you’re able to create opportunities to extract maximum financial gains through market-creating innovations that lead to “blue oceans” of profitability.

Today, it’s not the large organizations eating the small. It’s the fast ones eating the slow. Although leaders might hesitate to begin their transformation journey because they lack confidence or might be discouraged by the difficulties and setbacks along the way, achieving business agility remains a critical factor in your organization’s ability to survive and thrive in uncertain business environments. Without it, you risk having your business become a mere memory.

Wondering how Agile transformation can help your business rapidly adapt to market changes in a complex, digital world? Our Business Agility team is here to help.

Ready to start your journey? Let’s talk.

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