Do you have an agile strategy and an agile organisation? Recently a client asked me how to be more agile in the implementation of their strategy. In response, here are eight short thoughts on the underlying thinking necessary to becoming a more agile, learning organisation. (To keep this short there are links to my longer articles on each topic.)
- Having an agile organisation is not enough. Even the most agile gymnast, crossing the road reading her phone, will still get run over if she does not realise a car is coming. Useful, applied, agility requires two preceding capabilities: Awareness, and decisions, before agility can take place.
- To have a more agile strategy, work around my Strategic Learning Model more quickly, ensuring you have the right conversations at the right time. This is how you increase awareness, gather feedback, and learn from, refine and update your strategy. (See attached single slide: remember the arrows – the conversations – are more important than the boxes.)
- It is about making good decisions, executing them well and learning quickly from decisions. Make sure you learn quickly however, you must neither ignore, nor rush, the learning piece. (Remember my six-step decision process has learning from the content of the decision, and learning from the decision process.)
- Agile organisations hold a natural tension: our strategy has to be persistent and sustainable, and embedded in peoples’ heads and hearts; yet we want organisational flexibility and change. It’s an apparent contradiction that is, in reality, a natural tension that exists in any strategy. We need to socialise our strategy, and our approach to strategy, and explain and socialise change so that the organisation can evolve.
- Agile organisations need a good change competence. You can’t jump straight from ineffective implementation, into being an ‘Agile Learning Organisation’. (Agility is not a silver bullet). Agile, learning, organisations are underpinned by a core competence of effective organisational, cultural and behavioural change.
- Agile does not have to mean incremental. It can and should work across various time horizons. Your agile development (incremental) roadmap should be founded on tangibly defined, longer term changes, as well as immediate, incremental, improvements. If you don’t, then short term (tactical) changes can easily become sources of sustainable competitive disadvantage. Then, Strategy has become a habit, that you can’t get out of and you don’t what that do you.
- Rush this stuff and you will quickly dig yourself a deeper hole. Do not confuse activity with effectiveness (even in an agile organisation). Team agility requires an organised and coordinated approach. As any sports team will tell you, it also requires training and practice in order to work in action. It requires a system of management and supporting tools that supports that agile, learning organisation.
- If you want your organisation to be more agile and responsive, you might have to look in your mirror and ask, “Is how we manage also suitably agile, responsive and learning?”, and do we have to re-think how we manage as well? Because, when thinking about their strategy, many organisations fail to think about how they manage as well.
So, are you simply talking about being agile, responsive and learning? Do you really have an agile strategy that leads to an agile organisation? Are you adapting the way you think about your organisation and how you manage it, so you facilitate agility and learning?