The Dynamics within Agility.

There has been an awful lot to absorb when it comes to skills and how organizations need to be designed for the future. The suggestions have come ‘thick and fast’ from so many sources.

The number of helpful reports, observations and suggestions are constant and becoming overwhelming to translate effectively.

How can we map a new pathway for shifting current practices and transform them?

Where do we focus, what do we recognize as organization practices that can begin to transform the organization and re-equip it for a different future?

After working through a number the one that held my attention and has become central to my thinking to take organizational practices forward was provided by a recent report from McKinsey “How to create an agile organization”. This report has been part of a broader ‘agile’ series from them but this one specifically gave me my necessary anchor point, to move forward with my own design thinking for agility and innovation.

Agility for me is vital, it allows us to increasingly be adaptive in an uncertain world.

As innovation continues to be central to growth far more in the future it is our ability to adapt and adjust to all the uncertainties and this requires the ability to be agile.

I want to separate agile from the software push side, empowering small teams, into this agility for organizations. We all need to learn or hone new skills, be this sense-making, novel, and adaptive thinking, developing deeper social intelligence and managing new media literacy. How we do this will be one of the keys to making progress or sinking due to a growing cognitive overload.

I recall one report suggesting the work environment needs to be redesigned with three goals in mind, so we can tackle increasingly higher-impact challenges, strengthen those higher-impact connections to deliver on these challenges and thirdly, be in the right shape to amplify the impact.

These three suggestions came from the Center for the Edge. I liked these as they fit my innovation mindset and focus and continues to extend my own views, such as these two posts of “Making Agility compatible for you” and “Building Collective Agility for Innovation”

So, let me return to the McKinsey report, it builds out “agility” even further.

They have identified eighteen practices for organizational agility. Have you noticed how many organizations are emphasizing agility in their transformation, yet McKinsey have suggested nine of these practices are more for stability and can give the foundations for the shaping the other nine, those they nominate as dynamic.

Stable and Dynamic Practices of Agility.

How to create an Agile Organization. Source: McKinsey & Company.

A brief summary but I would recommend reading their report

Now within the list of stable practices, I think most organizations are falling into the trap and placing their emphasis on building these. Is this focus wrong? Yes, but it is largely where you are in nay transformation journey. There seem very few organizations have completed any form of agile transformation, they are for many a current work-in-progress.  It is the scope and ambition of organizations real determination to transform, their higher aspiration, that will determine how far along an agile pathway they can go. The stable group reflects significant progress on where most of our organizations find themselves today.

The ability to transform, moderates the ‘higher aspirations’ and my feeling is, unless you aim for the dynamic agility practices from day one, you will not make sufficient progress in delivering agility into the organization. This is why I just want to focus on these more dynamic ones, as they really begin to make a radical difference, one that can separate one organization from another.

McKinsey does point out you do need all eighteen to be fully in practice, but it is these dynamic ones that hold the real promise in my mind. These are the ones we all should move towards as our projected aim to achieve.

So let me summarize these nine dynamic practices

I have taken the nine dynamic practices outline meaning from this McKinsey report and added my own thoughts and reflections within these summaries.

  1. Information Transparency

Today we need to take away all the filtering going on in organizations. Those who fill positions to control and attempt to influence the data. If we can’t unlock the knowledge within the organization, we fail to connect the people working within the organization to its products and related customer needs. Transparency makes the sharing of the knowledge increasingly relevant to connecting up the ‘whole’. There needs to be a very powerful concept of un-filtering, to allow the flow of understanding. It is highly dynamic and powerful in all it can release if encouraged and supported.

2. Rapid iteration and experimentation

The whole emphasis today is on rapid and fast cycles of learning. That testing, learning and adjusting from mistakes and building on these become really valuable progress points. Prototyping is getting so much better, it is creeping into the everyday culture when we innovate, or should. The MVP concept is so right to get features that are potentially better, out there, to test and learn from.

3. Continuous Learning

The moment we stop personally learning, we are the real losers. We need to find ways to ”cut out time” to explore and look for new ways to learn to improve ourselves and what we do within organizations. We need to push for new ways of working and to learn ‘more freely’ from other’s knowledge, in open exchanges and ways to collaborate. We progress by learning from failures and relating to them.

4. Flexible resource allocation.

We need to be adaptive, fluid in any organization and team design. The ability to feel in a position to ‘ramp up or shut down’ initiatives empowers us. We need to want to constantly change teams, seek out joining new ventures. To be always wanting to be redeployed, not because we are hanging on but because any new deployment means new horizons and opportunities. Seek change out, embrace this flexible world and show you are a key resource to help mold and shape it.

5. Open physical and virtual environment.

I often struggle with open planned offices, they provide an environment that distracts and not promote. If you can achieve a way that people communicate and collaborate with each other then great but when you are in a globally dispersed organization it is how you openly ‘react’ in your daily work. For me the virtual environment holds the real future and with so many organizations denying social tools the key to make it ‘purposefully designed’ is to make the activities clearly visible to all that need to know, to constantly show where your intervention and impact has made a difference in building context, content, structure or sharing knowledge. We need to find much better ways to make this a really dynamic, exciting, and rewarding part of agility within organizations

6. Sensing and seizing opportunities.

The value of being proactive, to watch out for signals, to then act upon them, to make your insights valuable to change perceptions, to alter customer bias, to engage with the external environment to shape, influence and contribute into new initiatives makes ‘sensing and seizing’ so important to drive innovation as the catalyst of change.

7. Technology, systems, and tools.

The constant demands being placed on us, to learn and adapt to new technology, systems, and tools as it keeps changing is mega-hard to keep pace with. New organization design in architecture, infrastructure, practices, and ways is tough to integrate the old and the new. How we respond to these is highly dependent on the articulated needs of the business. We can only be ‘responsive’ if we relate to the changing needs. The ability to have a more modular architecture, updates coming in a shorter interval of times can help in a continued updating. It is when the process determines rigid design you can’t change. To ‘react and respond’ you need to keep looking at moving towards technology frontiers. Exploring and exploiting contributes to a better holistic desired business outcome.

8. Role mobility

The movement needs to be constant. When we design we need to always account for achieving a certain fluidity. We need to constantly match our present skills with organizational needs. As we develop a more open talent marketplace we need to have this increasing mobility. Communicating roles, tasks and project outlines need to be demanded, then we have the understanding to change and then deliver to these ‘askes’ of us. These need to constantly match with our own goals, the alignment is the enabler to make this happen.

9. Active partnerships and ecosystems.

Relationships are our trading value. As we build out networks we need to trade. We trade in knowledge, in contribution, in working alongside others to co-develop. We seek out partnering, to invest our intellectual capital with theirs. We look to build the organization’s ecosystem through these engagements, to contribute to new products, services and solutions to look to bring them always to fruition. Our ‘need’ for activity and engagement builds a thriving, more dynamic environment.

In summary.

If we can embrace change by seeking out ways to re-equip ourselves, we encourage our organization to become more dynamic by these actions. We do get stuck in a certain mindset and set of behaviors. We become beholden to them, they eventually ‘freeze’ our progress, we stop learning and experimenting. We need to push for formal mechanisms of change, we need to seek out our own. We need to take hold of our actions, be clear on our organization’s vision and how we believe we can contribute.

As individuals, as members of fluid teams and as an organization we need to be mutually reinforcing.For me, fluidity is equally the growing need of organization’s today.  It is in recognizing that the dynamic practices found for building agility into ourselves and the organization do lie in these nine practices, they give us this level of fluidity. Take them on board, practice them constantly and over time your agility becomes your transformation. It becomes the ‘norm’ and allows for constant adaption.

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