Unfortunately, there are many barriers for the agile journey. The Neo-liberal macro-economic framework has not only centred organizational purpose on profit but also on short term goals. Globalization has led to dissociate employees from customers and to create unstable and sometimes “unfair” employment conditions with an impact on organizational behaviour which has made of the “mechanical” paradigm based on “compliance” not a choice but almost a need. In this strategic and behavioural context, management systems can only set the bottom line to ensure consistency with customers and regulators’ “minimum” requirements. Performance is boosted through new organizational structures or consulting services, in either cases from the “outside” knowing that without motivation it is not possible to drive performance from “within” the processes. In most of the cases “digital” business transformations have led to massive both headcount reductions and relocations to lower costs deploying “fragile” operational models which even in the short term presents issues to cope with expected performance. Nevertheless, organizations need an agile transformation. How to kick off the journey?
Awareness and sense of urgency
To begin with, for driving the transformation it is important to understand both organizational design and current operating model. Firstly, scientific management principles have created “mechanical” organizations with too many spans of control, too much complexity and rigid structures which led to bureaucracy and lose touch with both organizational purpose and customers experiences. Secondly, leadership is focus on time management and reporting while employees are concentrated on compliance with expectations setting the roof for performance instead of the bottom-line. Once the organizational design and current operating model have been characterized, it is important to create the burning platform for change in order to develop a sense of urgency for the agile transformation at all organizational levels. Therefore, it is through the quantification of both major short and long-term effects that the business case is built in order to develop “momentum” and to bring awareness about about current state consequences and the need of a transformation.
Kick off and drive the agile journey
Once the business case has shown not only short- and long-term consequences of the current state but also the potential benefits of the transformation, it is time to start the agile journey. A key aspect to consider is how to link the current state undesirable effects with the “pain points” at each organizational level. Moreover, to create this connection will be the transformation’s bottleneck because until then there always will be a separation between the “business as usual” (BAU) and the transformation as if the later were more job to do. What is more, by linking issues experienced on daily basis with current way of working, people not only realize they accountability on current performance but are empowered to change and improve. Furthermore, this creates motivation “within” people to deep dive into the process in order to reach the root causes of the pain points driving the organizational learning process to develop sustainable solutions.
Leadership and organizational readiness
First and foremost, organizational readiness must be assessed prior to kicking off the agile journey through identification of “external” and “internal” barriers. Although most of the former will be restrictions with which the organization will have to deal, the majority of the later will bring opportunities for the organization to act upon them to increasing its readiness. Moreover, the business case will contribute to further develop organizational readiness through awareness and sense of urgency. Furthermore, the agile journey itself will be another source of increasing readiness if it is driven properly. However, agile transformation is centred in people, therefore it is essential to sustain not only respect but also engagement through the whole transformation process. In addition, organizational readiness should be frequently assessed through surveys or R&R programs. To conclude, I believe John F. Kennedy words in his famous speech are the perfect example of how leadership can be decisive to develop organizational readiness: “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.”
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