How can your organization adapt agile ways of working and reap its extensive benefits?
Even before the onset of Covid-19, the world was changing swiftly, but after the pandemic the pace of change has surged exponentially. How can the old ways of working bring success in this new world which is not only faster but also exceedingly complex? Well, the simple answer is it cannot. Organizations need new ways of working to run successful enterprises in the “new normal”.
Agile is a new way of working that enables organizations to take act swiftly while improving quality and reducing cost. With roots in software development, agile is a team-centered, cross functional approach of working, applicable across industry sectors and business contexts. Top priorities of agile are autonomy, speed and collaboration, that enable organizations to unlock their hidden potential.
Martin Danoesastro, Sr. Partner and MD of BCG finds a parallel of agile methodology in bird flocks, where hundreds of birds fly in unison creating different shapes in perfect synchrony. Every bird in the flock operates autonomously yet the flock performs as a team creating new patterns and shifting shapes without any chaos, because they are aligned to a common goal. Alignment to a common goal enables their autonomy and in turn, their autonomy makes them fast and flexible.
In a business context, agile way of working creates alignment around purpose, eliminates hierarchy and bureaucratic norms and empowers people to take quick decisions. In an agile environment every person is a leader who is not strictly confined to his designated role.
Benefits of Agile
Agile accelerates delivery of new products and services by 100% – 200%. When the speed to market is doubled, organizations can surge ahead phenomenally. Agile also reduces costs by 25% – 35% and improves quality by 20%. As a result, customer satisfaction increases and so does organizational efficiency. In fact, it is claimed that large organizations have unlocked millions of dollars in value by implementing agile successfully.
Agile is Driven by the People on Top
A united leadership team, willing to embrace radical change is a key requirement for agile transformation. Companies need to redesign organizational structures, change operating models, create new capabilities and alter traditional ways of working, to drive agile transformations. Agile is basically a change of mindset and culture, and hence requires a strong CEO level commitment.
Studies show that 75% of agile transformation efforts are unable to deliver the proper results because top leaders can’t accept the structural changes themselves. In large organizations, separate specialized teams functioning in silos creating room for inefficiencies. Agile breaks the monotony and creates smaller teams with multiple functionalities. It brings in transparency and makes information accessible to all. Accepting this change is not easy. Many leaders perceive that as loss of power and fall back to old ways. Once that is avoided and the company leaders see through the change, the new work culture is born.
Keeping Agile Transformations on Course
To keep agile transformations moving ahead, leaders must ensure that the autonomous teams are aligned to the common goal or organizational purpose. They must monitor that the teams get the priorities right and finally, they must let go and trust their teams to make the right decisions on how to reach the goal. Ensuring consistency across smaller autonomous teams is also crucial.
Transparent communication is the key to creating alignment for agile transformation. Agile leaders must ensure that the teams communicate transparently everyday to the level where each team member shares an individual update on their work status daily. When organizations reach that level of transparency, there is no longer any room to hide and leaders have a great handle on the situation. Thus, achieving alignment is not easy and providing autonomy is not so obvious either.
Agile gains a greater significance in the present pandemic scenario as it makes any organization better prepared to respond to change. Agile propagates a new culture with less hierarchy, where ideas are not lost in PPT decks but discussed and implemented in days. It changes a boring office to a cluster of high energy startups where nothing is impossible.
Click here to read the BCG piece