Achieving Business Agility in a Changing World

Insights | 08 February 2017

Ever notice how many times the words ‘agile’ and ‘agility’ appear in corporate conversation today? From business through to programmes and projects, we talk about ‘being agile’ or ‘having agility’. You can be forgiven for barely blinking when the word ‘agile’ is mentioned as it is bandied about so often.

But what does it really mean to be agile or to demonstrate agility? Ask different people and depending on their area of focus and experience with agile practices, you can end up with answers from different sides of the spectrum.

Fact: There is no single definition of agile that accurately encapsulates all methods, practices and frameworks.

It appears that somehow in the overall translation, traditional methods are deemed ‘bad’ while agile methods are seen as ‘good’. Waterfall/traditional project management is perceived as ‘heavy duty, command and control’ and seen as ‘not delivering’. So what is the alternative? Is there a silver bullet? Suddenly, it is about ‘being agile’, but what does this really mean? Do we just suddenly become agile and that equates to success?

Fact: Agile methods, practices and values are an enabler, but not a guarantee of success.

True business agility is the organisation’s ability to rapidly adapt to market and environmental changes in productive and cost-effective ways. Today’s organisations are continuously under pressure to rapidly adapt to the wide and varied changes and competition whether they be internally or externally derived. That’s why adopting agile and achieving business agility are rapidly becoming the expected norm from an executive viewpoint. But what does this really mean for executives and organisations?

Four Must-Haves For Achieving Successful Agile Implementation And Agility

  1. True agility is not a simple journey. Understanding, living, and truly being agile is a logical path, but not an easy one by any means. The benefits of being able to rapidly adapt, be flexible and successful, come at a cost; investment in both people and time is required. The journey is time consuming; it is about changing ways and mindsets that are often at the core of an organisation’s culture. For some organisations this may mean influencing and changing practices that are (and have been for years) real ‘traditions’. There will be people who will challenge changing and bring with them the premise of “we’ve always done it like that.”Organisational culture is complex and powerful – mindsets and values take time to adjust and be re-positioned.
  1. Communicate your agile/agility strategy. Interestingly enough, achieving business agility needs to be strategised and planned. It is not about being ad-hoc and suddenly becoming agile. The first step is to define the end goal. For example, is it to use agile practices at a project level, or is it more wide-reaching? Is the objective to achieve agility across the organisation? Or be phased alternatively? What do we mean as an organisation when we talk about agile? Do we have a common understanding of what it truly means, and Is everyone speaking the same agile language?
  1. Empowerment is governance at the right level. Contrary to common belief, agile approaches are not about everyone doing what they want, when they want – the right governance is still required. Agility means embracing a culture of empowerment and the right decisions need to be made at the right level which does not always mean the most senior. It is not about a chain of command, but rather agreeing on a governance model that empowers the appropriate people at the appropriate times to make decisions. Yes, this might seem alien to some, where the prevailing culture is based on a more traditional governance approach.Recognise that there will be times that executives and management will need to be available to make timely strategic decisions.
  1. Embrace a culture of trust at all levels. Depending on current organisational norms, this is not necessarily an easy task. Recognise that people closest to the work understand what is really involved and are more likely to be committed if they are trusted and respected.

Real agility is changing how everyone thinks. Yes, in essence the business needs to trust IT, and IT needs to trust the business and projects need to trust and respect the customer at all levels. The reality is that if people are not trusted, the benefits of agile and agility are compromised.

True agility is about nurturing an ecosystem based on trust and collaboration at all levels.

For more information on on scaling agile for business agility, or general advice on agile adoption and coaching, phone us today on 1300 70 13 14.

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