How to make the transformation work?

Organizational Agility

Becoming agile – that is the goal of many companies. They want to reduce time to market, be closer to the customer and / or improve cross-departmental cooperation. To promote agility, companies train employees, hire agile coaches or adjust the organizational structure.  However, the achievements usually fall short of the expectations.

So how can this transformation succeed? Together with NewRe, we discussed this issue with managers and experts from various fields (Innovation, HR, IT, Operations, Strategy and Transformation) in Zurich – probably in one of the last events of this kind in the near future due to COVID-19.

Clear focus on organizational agility

If the transformation towards more agility is to succeed, then it is necessary to clarify what is meant by agility. To do so, we differentiate between three perspectives on agility:


What attitudes and beliefs underlie our behavior and decisions?

Framework and methodology

Which approaches can we use at a team level or in a bigger setup to organize our work?

Organizational requirement

To what extent is the organization able to react promptly to changing market conditions or customer feedback and to quickly implement new product ideas?

The goal of any agile transformation should be to increase organizational agility. Naturally, this requires a shift in the mindset of both managers and employees. In many cases proven agile approaches (e.g. Lean Startup, Kanban, Scrum and XP) or scaling frameworks (e.g. Kanban Flightlevels, LeSS or SAFe) will certainly help. However, at the end of the day agility has to deliver impact: As an organization, are we more successful in adapting quickly to our environment and implementing feedback quickly? Do we really meet our own targets of more agility?

Strict success orientation and objectives

Agility is not an end, nor should it be a trend that requires the extensive use of agile approaches throughout the organization. A clear perspective on what exactly should be improved is therefore crucial for a successful agile transformation. This perspective and the “reason why” must be as specific as possible and must go beyond the often-heard phrases along the lines of “simply faster time-to-market” or “working together much better in the organization”. Our experience shows that a common and as precise as possible understanding of why agility is essential for your particular company, and why exactly agile ways of thinking and working should be fostered is crucial for success. Also measuring our progress against our targets to check the effectiveness of our actions based on data is necessary.

However, in most cases a precise understanding does not mean a detailed blueprint, but rather a clear definition of the desired organizational competencies. Agile frameworks and good-practices can definitely still serve as an inspiration and starting point, but not be implemented dogmatically. Rather, the specific approaches and dimensions of success must be developed to suit the organization’s particular needs.
Learning process

A strict target vision and a systematically reviewed roadmap (which is based on the seven dimensions of organizational agility) will help initiate a learning process, that in itself also follows agile principles. At the heart of this process are hypothesis-based, carefully designed test runs: Which experiments do we believe will help us become more agile as an organization? Now a cycle of inspect and adapt begins, which verifies the results of the test runs. Now, the organization starts to learn from experience what has to be adjusted in order to achieve success.

Since it is based on an agile transformation roadmap, this type of approach can also help to deal with a typical challenge: the paradoxical expectation of senior management to very precisely describe the target state of the transformation while simultaneously understanding that this is not fully possible due to the project’s complexity.

Are you facing similar questions in your organization? We would be happy to discuss your specific experiences and challenges with you and accompany you during your transformation to a more agile organization.

Axel Sauder
Axel Sauder
Partner, Head of Organizational Practice

Share this story...