Develop New Agility

October 12, 2020
Agility Cycle PPTS

Gone are the days of standing up a grand organizational design that functions for years. Enter the forever “beta phase” of ongoing enhancement and improvement. The current pandemic has amplified the contrast in reaction time, or agility versus the status quo, more than any time in recent history. Now is the time to take action by embedding agility into your organizational design.

Agility is not an elusive concept, neither is it a disruptive, one-time effort. Rather, it is a quantifiable system of continuous evaluation of your fundamental business practices. The stepping-off point is an assessment of the core practices from which your business culture emanates. That is, the standards and structure under which your people operate utilizing formal and informal processes powered by rapidly changing technology tools (traditionally referred to as people, process, technology and structure). This assessment process will reveal key competencies to replicate and inefficiencies to improve. Properly nurtured by leadership, this process becomes a transformative circular progression that, leaving no sacred cow untipped, improves the organization's agility and effectiveness with each new cycle. 

Refine your vision and your team.

People are your most valuable and, conversely, your most unpredictable resource. It is a result of humanness that you must install processes, technology and structure to ensure the correct actions are taken and completed accurately and on time.

Most people want to do a good job for the company and customers and are often held back by the burden of status quo, a structure that is lethargic and systems that are antiquated and time consuming. 

Begin the transformation process by refining your company’s vision, mission and values to ensure they are compelling and aligned. The purpose is to set a standard and establish a culture that will generate a professional, productive and even emotional connection with your people. Then design an internal culture campaign that recognizes, encourages and rewards the embodiment of that culture. This will begin to wire your organization to respond to circumstances, and the inevitability of change, with an agile mindset.

Of equal importance to newly defined standards are the people in your company you engage to deliver on the spirit of the culture. 

Leadership must cast a vision that will inspire the curiosity and performance of the team. Then do the hard work of objectively evaluating your team and their roles. It is common to rush this process and hire based on one-dimensional criteria. Hard skills alone are no longer the only measure. Soft skills like adaptability, communication, emotional intelligence and integrity are of paramount importance.

Build a thoughtful top-grading process within your organization and use it continuously. New people instill new ideas, which coupled with a new organizational design, will proliferate change throughout your business practices creating continuous improvement. Once initiated, the first circular progression of creating agility begins to take hold.

Rethink processes and technologies.

Seth Godin, author, entrepreneur and genius marketer, said, “Organizations that destroy the status quo win. Whatever the status quo is, changing it gives you the opportunity to be remarkable.” 

This thought gets to the heart of agile organizational design: your processes and enabling technologies must empower a nimble response to changing conditions in the marketplace. To accomplish this, create a recurring plan to engage your team and your strategic customers and partners to review your processes, workflows, automations and touch-points. Empower your internal and external constituents to freely test your plan. You will get an objective, and possibly sobering, view of your actual business operating reality.

Equipped with a steady influx of feedback, take on the challenge to rethink, redesign, replace and automate operational processes on a continuous basis. Chances are you can list a dozen process and technology obstructions burdening your business delivery system. Your team and your customers can likely name twice that amount. Dedicate finances and human resources to the prioritization and delivery of progressive improvements. A key tactic is to leverage the surplus of simple, affordable SaaS solutions that can automate daily routines and create real-time visibility to information that used to take hours (or days) to compile.

As part of your culture campaign, close the loop by consistently communicating status updates to the entire team engaged in the identification and improvement process. This will build excitement, accountability and buy-in for all involved. Your team will now begin to see the tangible results of building agility into your organizational design.

Reimagine the organizational structure. 

When I arrived as a new executive at an already successful online printer, a recurring pattern emerged from early team member meetings: a large number of incredible ideas never made it out of the ideation stage. To solve the ideation-to-execution issue I engaged the team to design new roles and departments and aligned responsibilities creating speed to market as well as new opportunities for team members. 

In a matter of weeks more than 100 team members were excelling in a new structure that was continuously reimagined and refined. This agile approach enabled a fast evaluation process and the timely assignment of resources to execute prioritized projects fostered from a spring of great ideas. The result was one of the fastest growing, most profitable organizations in the industry. 

Great ideas can come from customers, your team or leadership, but if your organizational structure isn’t designed for agility and consistently reevaluated, you may miss out on opportunities. Whether your company is functionally aligned, departmentally aligned, matrixed or a hybrid design, there is room for improving the way people and teams work within company structure. Too often that structure is restrictive rather than agile. Lean on your learnings from the people, process and technology assessment phases to guide a thoughtful pace of structural change that will streamline your operations and sustain your scale of growth.

No matter the phase in which your organization is functioning today, you are not alone. Companies are strewn across the unfortunate landscape of a pandemic economy trying to find footing. Taken holistically, the three phases described herein can become an exit ramp from the chaos. Build purpose and agility into your organization and continually nurture it with the discipline of continuous improvement. Then go out and be remarkable.