Accelerating your organisational transformation, the agile way

At a time of change and uncertainties driven by global pandemic (Covid-19) and disruptions, business leaders are increasingly realising the need to transform their business process and outcomes.

And as time passes there is a rising demand on businesses to be faster, swifter and more effective in delivering smarter and more targeted solutions than ever.

We see the advent of new technologies that compel the market to be less patient with untidy services, and interestingly, what could be described as untidy or shabby today are creations that may have passed for great in the last half decade.

This is what makes business agility so critical. It is the ability of a business to adapt rapidly to market demands or changes in the business environment. Business agility is a huge determinant of a business’ success today. As Bill Gates puts it, “Success today requires the agility and drive to constantly rethink, reinvigorate, react and reinvent.”

The events of the past two years and even currently unfolding events have taught businesses that the traditional methods of doing business, executing projects, delivering services and communicating to customers are not entirely effective, in fact, they are in many cases stale.

For businesses to make quick growth changes, communicating, developing and executing an idea for their market segment require jet-speed. This of course does not downplay quality. Agility means doing the job fast and doing it well. Nevertheless, in all honesty, for business agility to be ingrained in a business’ processes and practices, there must be room for a fail-safe environment, which implies that businesses must be willing to make a few mistakes as they implement business agility strategies.

Business agility begins with communication. Communication from the leadership to the rest of the team. It is crucial that the entire leadership and teams are onboard for agility to be embraced in an organisation. It demands doing away with traditional silo strategies where each unit focuses only on their purview.

An agile system requires cross-functionality such that each unit synergises toward realising an urgent goal per time. This is what defines an agile business and distinguishes it from the upholders of traditional, outdated methods. Agile transformation happens when an organisation transitions fully to an agile approach to their operations.

This transition is not limited to product development teams or other select teams. For a company to be truly agile, every employee across every department must embrace the values and principles. This means a willingness to be more flexible and reactive, collaborate effectively, and communicate openly.

In short, an agile transformation is the transformation of a company from their current traditional management method to iterative or agile ways of working (WoW). Specifically, it is utilising a methodology of agile principles and frameworks for change and impact.

Agile transformation is a complete transformation of an entire organisation, end-to-end. The goal is to breathe new life into the organisation by creating an environment that embraces creativity and innovation, empowering employees, and reducing unnecessary layers of managerial bureaucracies.

The end result may include cross-functional or self-organized teams, a renewed focus on customer satisfaction, a reduction in processes and plans in favour of action, and increased levels of internal communication and information sharing.

Agile transformation enables organisations to be more reactive, do more with less, and better serve the interests of their customers. To do it well, an agile transformation requires significant support, resources, and time, not to mention the commitment to stick it out when things get bumpy.

A successful agile transformation can revolutionize how a company manages projects, addresses customer needs, and grows its business, which is why some organizations are willing to take on the associated effort required to bring it to fruition.

What does an agile transformation process entail?

Like all major undertakings, the agile transformation process begins by designating an implementing team, setting goals, and creating a roadmap.

Also, periodic check-ins of progress made against the roadmap and necessary adjustments are essential to keeping the project on track while still being realistic.

A communication plan should accompany the tactical one, to ensure the entire organisation understands the objectives and is continually notified of progress against the goals.

As this is such a large endeavour, smaller pilots are usually conducted before an organisation-wide rollout.

Assembling cross-functional teams is key. Creating groups of 5-10 individuals that have enough expertise and talent between them to take on projects from inception to completion gives you leverage. These self-contained units are able to eliminate handoffs and the inevitable problems that arise during those transitions.

Project assignment also shifts from the individual to the team approach. The team as a whole is evaluated for different projects and specific staff is not cherry-picked for a particular engagement.

Some common challenges in agile transformation

Agile transformation is a lengthy process, sometimes spanning years. And if not expertly managed, it may fail to survive long enough for full implementation. To start with, without full executive buy-in and consistent leadership, efforts at agile transformation may fade before the benefits are fully realised and the transformation is complete.

Changes in leadership can also derail a transformation or undo some of what was enacted, as new leadership may not believe in its merits, agree with the decentralised structure, or want to devote the required time and resources. Lacking a continuing commitment and urgency to the transformation, there’s a high likelihood of these efforts dying before they see the light of day.

Communicating the value of agile transformation to every employee, from top to down, is an additional challenge since the transformation spans far beyond product development and other usual business protocols.

Nevertheless, reaching a decision and staying the course of a successful agile transformation can revolutionize how your organization addresses customer needs, manages projects, and grows its business, which is why some organizations are willing to take on the associated effort required to bring it to fruition. Stay Agile!

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