To address the mutations of their environment, companies must exercise agility. Yet, many do not have an organization that predisposes them to it. How about reconsidering the manner in which their employees work together?
Agility has become an imperative for companies that evolve in an environment called “VUCA”. This acronym, forged by the American military strategists in the post-cold war context, defines four characteristics of the contemporary world—Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. A survey conducted by McKinsey in 2017 among more than 2,500 companies, in all types of sectors of activity, thus revealed that three quarters of the respondents rank agility as one of their top three priorities.
What are the conditions needed to instill greater agility in your company? The question is often considered from the perspective of the organizational structure. You would possibly need to develop a network of “agile squads”—self-organized, fast and autonomous teams. Let’s get rid of the structures into departments, divisions and functions! They create as many silos, making it impossible to adopt rapid and coordinated reaction to changes. Let’s get rid of the hierarchical reporting lines! They stifle information flows and slow down decision-making. This philosophy is relevant in some companies and sectors, but is difficult to transpose to all situations.
This is something, for example, that the American armed forces realized early on. They, themselves, were confronted in Iraq to an enemy made more mobile and unpredictable by new technologies. In such a situation, developing “agility” also seemed indispensable to them. It was difficult however to let go of the discipline imperative. As for suppressing or averting hierarchy, this could hardly be considered…
Thankfully, the organizational response is not the only possible one. You can also bring changes to working habits. Because it is the staff that, on a daily basis, enable the company’s reactivity. They are the ones who detect the weak signals in the field, letting burgeoning evolutions emerge. They also share this intelligence with their peers. It is still them who choose to slightly adjust their actions, even before informing their hierarchy—or without even needing to do it.
Discover in this synopsis how to develop the right conditions for agility, by getting your staff members to change their attitudes and behaviors.
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Cultivate your strategic agility
When it comes to developing agility, the first challenge is about information. Among all signals of change coming from diverse horizons, how can we spot those that require our vigilance?
Take inspiration from agile project management methods
Well-suited to complex environments, so-called “agile” project management methods are increasingly popular. What are the conditions required to reap the full benefits of the agile approach?
One MissionChris Fussell, C. W. Goodyear
How the US armed forces adopted agile methods to fight against Al-Qaeda in Iraq.
How to create an agile organization
A study that shows the place of agily in business priorities and describes the associated practices.
The five trademarks of agile organizationsWouter Aghina, Karin Ahlback, Aaron De Smet, Gerald Lackey, Michael Lurie, Monica Murarka, Christopher Handscomb
How agile organizations get organized to adapt quickly to a shifting environment.
How to select and develop individuals for successful agile teams: A practical guideWouter Aghina, Christopher Handscomb, Jesper Ludolph, Dave West, Abby Yip
A study about the competencies and behaviors that facilitate agile teamwork—and about the way to evaluate them and further develop them.
Agile at ScaleDarrell K. Rigby, Jeff Sutherland, Andy Noble
How to reproduce the approach of small agile teams on a large scale in your company.
A Leader’s Framework for Decision MakingDavid J. Snowden, Mary E. Boone
A reference article about the importance of adapting our leadership and decision-making modes to each context depending on its degree of complexity.