How to make the transformation work?

Organisational Agility

Becoming agile - that is the goal of many companies. They want to be faster to market, closer to customers or better at cross-departmental collaboration. To promote agility, employees undergo extensive training, agile coaches are hired or the organisational structure is adapted. And yet the results usually fall short of expectations.

So how can the transformation succeed? Together with NewRe, we discussed this with managers and experts from various areas (innovation, HR, IT, operations, strategy and transformation) at a drinks reception in Zurich shortly before the lockdowns caused by COVID-19.

Clear focus on organisational agility

If the transformation to greater agility is to succeed, it must first be clarified what is actually meant by agility. We differentiate between three different perspectives:

Philosophy
Framework and methodology
Organisational requirements

The aim of every agile transformation should be to increase organisational agility. To achieve this, the attitudes of managers and employees must change. Of course, proven agile approaches (e.g. Lean Startup, Kanban, Scrum and XP) or scaling frameworks (e.g. Kanban Flightlevels, LeSS or SAFe) help in many cases. At the end of the day, however, agility must be measured by results: are we as an organisation more successful at adapting quickly to our environment and implementing feedback promptly? Are we actually living up to our organisational claim of greater agility?

Stringent success orientation and target image

Agility is not an end in itself and should not be a fad that - whatever the cost - has to be implemented across the board and everywhere. A clear perspective on what exactly needs to be improved is therefore crucial for a successful agile transformation. It should also be clear how progress can be measured so that the effectiveness of the measures can be checked and adjusted based on data. This perspective and the "reason why" must be as specific as possible and go beyond empty phrases such as "simply faster time-to-market" or "significantly better collaboration". Our experience shows that a common and precise understanding of why agility is essential for your own company and why exactly agile ways of thinking and working should be promoted is fundamental to success.

However, a precise understanding does not mean a detailed blueprint, but rather the clearest possible definition of the organisational capabilities to be achieved. Agile frameworks and good practices ("Spotify, ick hör Dir trapsen") can serve as inspiration and a starting point, but should not be dogmatically modelled. Specific approaches and dimensions of success for the company's situation must then be developed on this basis.

Learning process

A stringent target image and a regularly reviewed roadmap (which is based on the seven dimensions of organisational agility) help to set a learning process in motion that follows agile principles itself. At the heart of this are hypothesis-based, carefully designed tests: which changes and experiments are we convinced will help us become more agile as an organisation? A cycle of Inspect & Adapt now begins with a review of the results of the tests.

The organisation learns from experience which framework conditions need to be adapted in order to be successful. Such an approach can also help to deal with the typical challenge of a transformation: the paradoxical expectation of senior management to describe the target state of the transformation very precisely - while fully understanding that this is not fully possible due to the complexity of the project.

Are you facing similar issues? We would be happy to discuss your specific experiences and challenges with you and support you during your transformation to a more agile organisation.

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Dr. Axel Sauder
Dr. Axel Sauder
Partner

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