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What are the elements of an Agile Organisation?

22 February 2018
by Caroline Mills

I can’t believe it’s been 12 months since I wrote the blog on "Agile" Change vs "Waterfall" Change – either something strange has happened to the time/space continuum or I am just getting older and time seems to fly by.

That blog focused on the Change Management practices that help when working on Agile projects and transformation – today I want to talk to you about the broader organisational agile transformations that many organisations are dealing with.

We now find ourselves in 2018 and Agile is a hotter topic in organisations than it was 12 months ago. Most organisations we work with now are playing, innovating, trying and generally dipping their toes in to ‘Agile’  waters…

So, talking about waters – how do we avoid the sharks?

In my experience there is no one size fits all approach to making your organisation Agile, Adaptive, Evolving, Dynamic or any of the other terms floating around organisations.  We have had the privilege of assisting a number of organisations undertaking broader business transformations.

So what works?

For ease I will refer to Adaptive Organisations for the rest of this blog – it gets us away from associating too closely with Agile Software Development (although there are brilliant practices that can be adopted). Let’s start with what an Adaptive Organisation, Team and Employee look like.

An adaptive organisation is highly attuned to the internal and external environment and has the agility to pivot in a new direction in response to rapid changes and new opportunities. Its identity and people are well aligned to the organisation’s purpose. It is fast, flexible, collaborative and entrusts more of its decision-making powers and associated resources to its people.

An adaptive team (sometimes called tribe, squad, swarm, unit, cluster) has clarity of purpose and is closely aligned with the organisation’s values and priorities. Team members recognise that their external environment is volatile and as a result they are extremely sensitive to their continually changing environment. They ably and willingly move vertically or horizontally to where they can have the most impact.

An adaptive employee has an open, flexible mindset. This employee is comfortable with ambiguity and is always looking for ways to collaborate with others. He/she offers up ideas, creates opportunities for others to shine and knows the value of innovating even if at times they get it wrong.  In a later blog I will talk at a deeper level about these characteristics and how you can develop your agile or adaptive muscles as an employee.

For now, let’s focus on some of the elements that the more successful adaptive organisations have:

  • A defined and activated purpose that isn’t just on posters on the wall but in the hearts and minds of everyone that works there and interacts with the organisation
  • Strong customer centricity and product development approaches to the work they do
  • Enterprise wide collaboration and co-creation
  • A healthy organisational culture
  • Self-organising teams made up of people from across different functional areas, adapting membership as needed and adopting different frameworks and practices depending on their focus
  • Leadership roles focused more on developing people and far less on telling employees what to work on
  • Strong Executive sponsorship, with a belief and an understanding of the need to adapt to our rapidly changing environment
  • Employees with open, flexible mindsets and who are comfortable with ambiguity

Underpinning it all, successful Adaptive Organisations are “Agile” in how they transform – they adapt, they try, they fail, they learn and they understand that there is no one perfect framework, approach or silver bullet.

If you want to hear more about Adaptive or Agile Organisations  or how The Change Space (www.thechangespace.net) is helping organisations going through change please contact me on caroline@allegraconsulting.com.au or contact my team on info@allegraconsulting.com.au or 1300 444 225

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