Designing for agility
Forward thinking firms are realising that in order to thrive in a world of uncertainty they need to fundamentally rethink themselves beyond the tactical “doing” mindset (processes, frameworks and methodologies), to an adaptive mindset, based on a culture of collaboration and a team-centered approach to problem solving.
Culture, HR, intrinsic motivation & emotional EQ are converging with agile, servant leadership, the growth mindset & customer empathy to fundamentally reshape what it means to be a modern organisation.
The winners in the current climate are not just embracing modern technology; they are fundamentally redeveloping their core DNA in order to detect new opportunities. And this change is increasingly being led as a culture-first initiative.
Much of the work we are currently doing is less about responding to a particular crisis, rather it is more focused on creating new capabilities to enable our clients to continually adapt and respond to almost any situation. We call this agility. In practical terms, what does this involve?
From years of working at the coal face of adopting agile ways of working, we have learned that a holistic approach radically increases your chances of success. We therefore approach it as two interrelated pieces – Business Design and Transformation, with the overlap, validation, playing a vital role in road-testing the change.
Business Design is about designing the business to help it best achieve its strategy. It is vital, yet in our experience many organisations skip this and leap straight into “implementing agile”. The result is a transformation with no real substance, no compelling call to action, no North Star. And firms wonder why so many transformations fail!
At Radically we take a very pragmatic view:
- First, understand the core strategy. What space does the firm play in? What unique combination of drivers enable it to win in this space?
- Design an Operating Model that will enable this strategy, empowering and aligning all the key business functions towards the same outcome.
- Get explicitly clear on the target culture required to achieve this. What does it look and feel like? What will leaders do to role model this? How do we reward and recognise people demonstrating the desired behaviours?
- Review and align the Organisational Structure to support the above. If our Operating Model is strongly agile based, then a different org structure is often required. What does this look like and what changes are required to get there?
- Ways of Working – clearly design how we will approach our work. What work should be approached with an agile model? What work should be delivered by a traditional model? How will these interact? Who will do what? How will we measure success of this?
- Funding & Governance – an agile enterprise tends to adopt an experimental mindset, delivering quick iterations of value that can be quickly tested with customers, resulting in continual course correction. Traditional funding and governance models tends to focus on adherence to a fixed plan. So how should a more modern funding and governance model work?
- Leadership – given the above, what should our approach to leadership look like? How will we live the values as behaviours each and every day?
Sadly, most agile transformations we have seen in New Zealand completely fail to consider these fundamental building blocks. Instead, they tend to take an “agile practitioner” approach, focusing on frameworks, methodologies and processes. In our experience, these firms are unlikely to achieve their desired business outcomes.
Transformation is the art of moving the business to the new model.
This is when the ‘people aspect’ of change truly kicks in. If you think about what we are actually transforming, it is people and people are the trickiest part to change; processes and models are relatively easy. The human shift must be designed with a human-centred approach. We find that by taking a leadership and mentoring approach, our job is to guide all levels through the change and build the capability and mindset within the staff to be self-sustaining into the future.
In our experience, no design is perfect. There is low value in trying to design a perfect design as no such thing exists, and secondly it will change as you implement it through transformation. Transformation validates design, yet transformation without design is folly.
In summary, we urge you to take a strategic focus when embracing agility. Are all the pieces of the firm aligned to the same vision, model and approach? Are we all completely clear why we are doing this and what outcomes we want to achieve? If you can’t answer yes to these foundational questions then it is time to re-think what you are doing.
Don’t “go agile”. Instead, design your business for agility, break the cycle of failed transformation and realise the true benefits from your investment.