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In a previous blog post, we explored how agile has evolved for IT and project delivery to Enterprise Agility. Organisations are using agile across the enterprise to create a high performing ecosystem to respond to a volatile market with innovative competitors, increasing customer demands, and next-gen technology. In our view, Enterprise Agility is using new ways-of-working to enable how a business creates ideas, plans, executes, makes decisions, learns, manages risk, and empowers teams – effectively using agile to run the whole business.
As our second edition to the Enterprise Agility series, we will cover off how you can take the first steps on defining your organisation’s change journey to enable enterprise agility.
As with any change of this size, complexity and nature, it will be hard. It will be challenging, mentally and emotionally exhausting, require lots of resilience. Yet at the same time, it will be rewarding, fun, an opportunity to learn, and ultimately satisfying. As displayed in the graph, this kind of change will challenge even those leaders and team members who have the most robust growth mindset to persevere towards creating something great.
Source: This diagram was found on a blog post written by Howard Lindzon. The original source could not be located. http://howardlindzon.com/carpe-volatility/
However, the first steps towards Enterprise Agility is to understand, recognise, and or convince (if required) that an agility mindset will help enable the execution of your organisation’s strategic vision. To get to the start of this graph – ‘this is the best idea ever’ – can be a journey on its own. Starting out with small actions and encouraging teams to adopt an agility mindset to validate the benefits (and uncover the challenges) is essential to gaining recognition that it is ‘the best idea ever.’
(Please be mindful that Enterprise Agility should not be the goal, as this will not achieve the outcomes that you desire and will likely result in transformation failure. Rather, it should be used as the foundation for the culture mindset that comes with a set of practises and tools that are helpful. A previous post addresses the balance of mindset and frameworks required for change within a large organisation.)
Based on our experience, there are 4 steps that can help you to work through the initial ideation of your Enterprise Agility journey.
1. Understand the ‘art of the possible’ – Take an outside-in approach
To understand the ‘art of the possible’, taking an outside-in approach to explore what others have done – both within your industry, and more importantly, outside your industry – are key. This allows you to get a fresh and diverse perspective on how other organisations are creating unique customer experiences, approaching sustainable innovation, employee-driven culture and engagement, and tackling the move from legacy technology to digital.
A number of organisations have used study tours to visit, see/hear first-hand, and experience how leading organisations around the globe are tackling common challenges and developing innovative ways to overcome them. A study tour is an opportunity to discuss and share learnings to provide a perspective on how to execute this change at scale.
There are a number of great and well-known examples like Netflix, Google, Zappos, Spotify, ING Netherlands, American Express, etc. that can provide a ‘seeing-is-believing’ experience. This allows an executive leadership team to learn and experience first-hand new ways of working. It may also be a valuable exercise to create a community to continue to ‘give and grow’ on the journey together.
To remain competitive in this fast-paced environment, organisations need to be unforgiving in their desire to be a ‘copy-cat.’ There is no time to ‘re-create the wheel’ when an approach has been tried and tested by another organisation. Simply understand the context and approach, determine if it will work for you, tailor it, and then test and learn to iterate within your organisation.
2. Anchor to your business strategy and vision
Starting with the ‘art of the possible’ enables an open and unconstrained mindset to make it real, which then allows you to ‘bring it back home’ to your strategy and vision. Creating alignment with how enterprise agility will enable the success of your organisation’s strategy, is important for a few reasons:
Part of ‘bringing it back home’ is to also get an understanding of the challenges, pain points and constraints that exist within your organisation. Every organisation is different, and creating alignment with how enterprise agility will solve your challenges will be needed to mobilise the change resisters once your journey begins.
3. Be clear on the decisions you will make
Once you have anchored the change to your organisation’s strategy, we strongly suggest a co-design approach to decide upon the choices and decisions you will make.
Source: 2017 Deloitte Consulting Pty. Ltd
Where are you today? Given the growing popularity of agile over the past number of years, especially within IT and recently emerging for business areas like Marketing, Sales, etc., there are likely to be pockets of agile within your organisation. These learnings are important to capture and will feed into your understanding of the current state enterprise agility spectrum. The current state view will provide a rough indication of how much change will be required.
Where do you want to get to? To determine where your organisation would like to get to starts to define the choices and decisions that will be required. Based on the examples across culture, people, leadership, governance, strategy, structure, policy, ecosystems and technology in the spectrum, there is a clear contrast between how a classic/traditional organisation works vs. a high performing agile organisation.
As an executive leadership team, clear decisions need to be made on the set of guiding principles that will define the ways-of-working for the organisation across these core themes. These principles should be universal. However, the application of these principles will vary as a one-size fits all execution approach will not work consistently across all areas of the business (e.g. core customer/product business units vs. shared functions like HR, Finance, Risk, Procurement).
4. Have a clear, simple, and purpose-driven story that will drive your change narrative
Lastly, the accumulation of the previous 3 steps will set you up to create a clear, simple and purpose-driven story that will drive your change narrative. It is essential that all individuals in the organisation, including the executives at the top, new graduates / recruits, and individuals who have been with the organisation for years, are able to articulate with conviction, strength and a sense of urgency the case for change.
The case for change needs to be balanced with the benefits of the change (enabler of your strategy through embracing the art of the possible and solver of current challenges) and the investment required to get there in people, process and technology. There needs to be a recognition that you will ‘slow down before you speed up’, and clarity on how success will be measured iteratively on the way.
All 4 steps are important to work through, yet the most fundamental for your success is to ensure that there is leadership sponsorship, alignment and prioritised focus. An evolution towards Enterprise Agility, regardless if it commences from within IT or from the Business, will result in a complicated mess, with both leaders and team members feeling frustrated, and likely end in failure, if there is minimal or no visible, active, or aligned leadership.
Moving beyond the phase of Ideation, an Enterprise Agility journey continues in an iterative and incremental way – in the true agile spirit. Committing and delivering on small actions as an organisation, team, and individuals, at all levels, is fundamental to the approach. Measuring outcomes along the way will be your guiding light. Remember, there will be feelings of resistance, fear and discomfort at the start, and during ‘the emotional journey to creating anything great.’ It will not be easy to change. But, if your organisation doesn’t change, how else will you respond to the ‘change is the new norm’ world that we live in today?