Business agility is the new economies of scale
Business agility is the new economies of scale and a powerful competitive advantage. In fact being agile has become one of the most significant necessities for organisations, not only to remain competitive but to thrive.
Agility within business can take on many forms. One approach to ensuring a business remains more agile is by adopting principles and techniques from the project delivery approach going by a similar name; ‘Agile’, which is commonly utilised in IT development.
This idea is nothing new, in 1970, Dr. Winston Royce presented a paper entitled “Managing the Development of Large Software Systems,” in which he criticised what he termed sequential development.
Dr. Royce’s recommendation against a phase based approach, in which IT developers first gather all of a project’s requirements, then complete all of its architecture and design, then write all of the code, was, of course, aimed at the IT department.
Not just about IT
Yet whilst Agile, as a method of project delivery, is still predominantly associated with IT, organisations could benefit from its core techniques to improve how they deliver organisational change. To date using an Agile approach has been the domain of smaller digital/tech companies or start-ups, due to its difficulty in scaling across large organisations, yet adopted successfully, Agile could ensure that an organisation deploys a working product more effectively and rapidly than traditional techniques due to its iterative and highly responsive nature.
Dr Royce asserted that software should not be developed like an automobile on an assembly line, in which each piece is added in sequential phases, and every phase of the project must be completed before the next phase can begin. Likewise in the case of organisational change, an Agile approach could provide opportunities to assess the direction of a project throughout the development lifecycle and, as a result, offer larger corporations an entirely new perspective on the way they manage organisational change.
New perspective for Organisational Change Management
One key component of Agile is the idea of a ‘minimal viable product’, where a product is released in a basic form and then built on over time, using customer feedback to make it more fit-for-purpose, relevant and contextual. This approach to delivery presents many challenges to managing the organisational change both for internal and external customers.
This was the challenge faced when the organisational change management community within a large financial services organisation in Asia-Pacific was faced with having to modify the way they supported their multi-channel online business.
The community of almost 300 people had a strong heritage in delivering traditional ‘waterfall change’ across the organisation, which meant they had to rapidly pivot and upskill their capability not just to understand the new ways of working within Agile but also rework their methodology, tools and techniques to help those projects deliver maximum value.
As specialists in delivering change they identified the key areas they needed to focus on to help get themselves and others up to speed. They tweaked and updated their methodology to better align to the Agile ways of working, which involved making subtle changes to the language, processes and the ways of interacting with the project and business.
Importance of governance
The key areas they identified started with governance. Successful projects have a strong and clear governance model, where all roles and responsibilities are understood. As a consequence, they had to ensure that a clear governance framework was in place in the early stages of the project to assist in the decision making as complexity increased further into the project.
Next, they addressed leadership. It is well known that leaders are critical to the success of a project, however they also need to be fully accountable for its progress. As such they needed support as they aligned behind the change, advocated the purpose and built empathy within their teams. In effect the leaders had to embed themselves within their projects to help understand the new way of working through emersion and collaboration.
This is where collaboration came into play. Maintaining a portfolio view across the workstreams meant joining the dots, pulling out the gaps, ensuring the right people were talking to each other and encouraging teams to work together through co-location and regular conversations. This eradicated the ‘them and us’ mentality and dissolved silos. As the agile manifesto states “individuals and interactions over processes and tools” meant people from different disciplines worked together in small, dynamic teams.
However, successful projects only deliver value to the customer when they continuously align their focus and make decisions based on what the customer wants. As a consequence, throughout the entire process, the customer was at the heart of every conversation to ensure the product and outcomes were aligned with the crucial customer feedback.
Wrapped around the entire process was the need to clearly and concisely showcase progress, manage ambiguity and create confidence through transparency. Key too was the emphasis on ensuring the project, leadership and business were all able to articulate what was being delivered, what the benefits were and how they were going to get there. This helped drive and build advocacy across the organisation during execution.
The new change culture
Finally, the entire project was underpinned by a lean start-up mentality which in turn drove a new culture within the organisation of bigger, bolder ideas and a more creative thrust as they became more reactive to market demands and more responsive to customer trends and external focuses.
As financial organisations increasingly need to invest more energy and resources into new strategic priorities, they need to develop, communicate and execute their organisational change programmes effectively, or risk losing the strategic value they are seeking.
As a consequence, today’s evolving financial landscape requires leaders to view organisational change management as key to capturing value. Which is why adopting Agile techniques to more effectively shift from initiation to implementation, through iteration, makes compelling business sense.
by Wayne Knox of organisational change management experts,
Able and How – www.ableandhow.com