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Agility is the New Nimble

Every generation a new business operating principle bubbles up into the professional organizational arena.  Resilience has been updated with Agility (yes, we know it sounds like being Nimble, but it’s a lot more nuanced).  Agility is a mainstay in the tech community – particularly with software development. Here’s a basic definition: “Business agility refers to rapid, continuous, and systematic evolutionary adaptation and entrepreneurial innovation directed at gaining and maintaining competitive advantage.” Simply stated, Agile management is methodical, systems thinking approach to preparing for the future.

About Systems Thinking

Systems thinking methodology is an outside-in view into an organization. Basically speaking, a system is the sum and interaction of its parts, not how a single focused group of parts is working.

At 2040, we help our clients understand the risks of institutional knowledge, its internal stovepipes and rooted legacy culture. These ingrained principles stick because of the lack of critical thinking to understand the reasons and causes that impact transformation, pivots in response to the market, and improving and building value for current members, customers, and subscribers.

Using systems thinking with its outside-in perspective reveals how current or prospective members, customers, and subscribers see an organization. Key insight: the blind spot in organizations is not seeing how the market sees you, rather, preferring to see how the organization sees itself. The outside-in view is often very different than the view captured internally and as a result can reveal misconceptions, falsities and disconnects to how the organization is working and delivering value. In summary, systems thinking is the mirror you need to see yourself clearly.

Agile Mindset

Transitioning to an outside-in mindset can be achieved through Agility and Agile project management, critical in the digital transformation process. But beware, at 2040 we advise our clients when agile is not always the right answer. Agility isn’t like turning on a switch and can’t be applied to all situations or organizations.  Plus, Agility may not work across the entire enterprise, fit all business types, or apply to all product development. Furthermore, we have found that if you work in silos with a top-down management culture (read: many traditional associations and organizations) this is not the best strategy or approach for you.

Why?  When an organizational culture isn’t aligned holistically, it cannot practice Agility. This presents a bigger and complex strategic issue: Does your organization operate with an authentic desire to use systems thinking to network your talent into interconnected solution thinking and how the parts integrate into an entire system?

The Race to the Bottom

If you keep your team isolated in vertical silos, you are practicing what we tell our clients is called the theory of “just good enough.” All too often we see Agile and Agility mistranslated across new or enhanced products, services, or offerings. A “just good enough” mentality may not address a complete business need or problem and can lead to more unsatisfied customers than satisfied ones. Inherently, it misses the upstream and downstream impacts which results in unintended consequences creating more work, expense, and frustration. It also risks opening the door for competitors to quickly replicate and go over and above what you are offering.

We also see clients who attempt to integrate Agile for every project, program, or organization system change. What often results? Rarely what was hoped for or expected. The intent of Agile is to iterate and deliver faster to the market. Time to market is surely more important than ever in the digital economy but quality and completeness shouldn’t be set aside with speed taking precedence.

Agile represents prioritization and a roadmap that builds from a solid offering that promises to add enhancements over time. It is not focused on delivering sub-par products or services that offer only part of a solution. We don’t buy a car that doesn’t include a steering wheel on the promise that it may be added later. We don’t buy a home that doesn’t have windows because they weren’t ready yet. and we don’t join, buy from, or subscribe to an organization on the promise that what we want will come at some later point.

Implementing Agility

Agility can be implemented as an imperative with and without software implementation. If the system is understood holistically, there is recognition of how selected parts can be improved and where iteration is appropriate without negative consequences.  The operating principle is that an Agile mindset is iterative, cross-functional, critical thinking, and self-directed.

The outcome of Agile management is a flexible roadmap to managing change. Even better, Agility empowers your team and sparks innovation. Your mindset is the key to Agility, and 2040 can help you design and implement the right strategy shaping your culture, process and people. Critical thinking is essential to enable innovation and problem-solving.  Agility is the polar opposite of cultures where people only do what they’re told, don’t question policies, and don’t have an innovation mindset.

Liberating Silos Management

According to Vivify, “Agile methodology focuses on operational freedom for teams involved in a project. Managers provide the means to an end and employees make the decisions on how to proceed. In most cases, organizations tend to keep departments isolated from the others, as well as keep the information within a silo. Agile focuses on cross-functional and self-organizing teams that communicate and collaborate, in order to deliver a working product or solution.”

The” wisdom of crowds” approach is a lynchpin to agility. Your organization has niche experts with a wealth of knowledge and skills. The cross-functional approach ensures that everyone has a seat at the table collaborating with a free flow of information and ideas. Feedback is essential to the process as is flexibility and openness to consideration of different input. And for this to succeed, it is imperative that the leaders of the organization fully support the initiative and have established goals for the organization to embrace and measure progress.

Distributed Control

For traditional leaders who operate with a hierarchical approach, agile project management can be threatening to a personal sense of control. The reality is that talented next-gen stakeholders want their voices to be heard, and if you don’t give them a place at your table, they’ll sit down anyway.  Or they’ll leave.

Agility is based on continuous improvement and iterative development. Think of it as a journey, not a destination.  Your customers aren’t locked into place and the dynamic digital marketplace is constantly evolving.  Your organization should be responsive to these changes, in other words, continuously improving and iterating new solutions.  Vivify also cautions, “Adopting Agile in a non-software environment takes both time and proper planning to ensure that you benefit from Agile practices rather than hinder your business operations.” Commitment and open-minded approaches support Agile models; you may be surprised where ingenious solutions emerge in a culture that embraces the “power of the whole.”

2040, in its work with clients, recognizes the value of Agility within the context and structure of systems thinking. It is not one-size-fits-all nor is it appropriate for every project or effort. We understand the realities of organizational transformation. We work with our clients to design change management strategies and organizational models that are relevant to their operations and stakeholders. Let’s connect to explore how we can work together to determine if Agile is right for your organization and how you can implement an Agile strategy and business model as a competitive advantage.

Get in touch with us!

2040 helps organizations navigate the sea changes of finding their new normal. We offer actionable expertise in the strategy and operations of digital growth and engagement, empowering an empathetic workplace culture, strengthening your value proposition and driving revenues.  We’ve been in your shoes and we know what impedes transformation … and what unlocks it.

Onward and upward from the 2040 Team

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