The Key Ingredients to Organisational Agility

A question we continue to hear from organisations is: how can we become more ‘agile’? But what they are really asking is: how can we find the agility to adapt to our increasingly, ever-changing environment?

Organisational agility is not about adopting agile tools, frameworks or rituals. Sure, if used properly, a good set of agile practices will help embed a culture of collaboration and fast decision making across the company, but they won’t give you organisational agility if you don’t also have these three key ingredients:

True Customer Focus

Most organisations have this in some way, shape or form as one of their main values and goals. Every service organisation has some sort of customer satisfaction statement on their website, as part of their marketing campaigns or in posters around the office. But the reality is that many organisations still fail to achieve this objective.

There are two main reasons for this. One, is that organisations weigh their purpose of delivering benefits to shareholders over delivering true value to customers. So what we find is managers setting a system of work aimed at increasing price and reducing costs, not at increasing the value delivered to customers.

The second reason is the way companies are traditionally structured. Structuring a company by function, in most cases, leads to different areas of the business working in isolation – functional structure causes silos. What you then start to see is functions setting their own goals, targets and KPI’s without understanding the impact of those for the company’s customers.

For true organisational agility, I believe that service organisations and teams need to use a Systems or a Design Thinking approach to the way they structure and organise themselves, starting with the customer first.

Keep It Lean

By keeping it Lean, I mean build a culture in your organisation or team where the focus of everyone is on eliminating waste, adding value for the customer and improving the flow of work.

This culture will then flow through to the way people work, that is, an organisation where simplicity is well regarded and seen as a key competitive advantage. This doesn’t just refer to the way products or services are designed, built and delivered to customers, but also the way internal processes, meetings, and collaboration tools are designed and run.

A service organisation or a team where an iterative approach of working (plan, do, check and adapt), a continuous improvement mindset and framework are extended amongst all teams, and metrics and goals are set with what matters to the customer in mind will be very close to achieve organisational agility.

Brave Leadership

The third key ingredient to achieve organisational agility is having brave leaders across all levels of the organisation.

None of the previous two points will work or even be considered by an organisation if their leaders are not willing to take some risks and do things differently. To challenge the norm in the way most teams and organisations are being managed.

So, what makes a brave leader? Brave leaders are servant leaders. They relinquish power in favour of the team. They are there to remove roadblocks. They set a vision and let the smart people they hire to do their work. Only to intercede when there is a need or the vision is not being met. They feel a tremendous sense of achievement through others achieving.

Brave leaders cultivate a culture of trust and develop other leaders, and above all, brave leaders are vulnerable. They are willing to take imperfect action and are not afraid of admitting they don’t know all the answers.

Written by
Eduardo Nofuentes
Founder & Enterprise Agile Coach @ The Agile Eleven

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