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Releasing the value of agile transformation

Agile transformations are increasingly seen as the answer to challenges created by traditional business models. Since the 1700s, productivity has been king, with people focussing on a single task without visibility of the whole process and the results of their endeavours. This production-line model has its advantages, but people feel disconnected from the value they’re creating and organisations don’t see, or take advantage of, cross-cutting innovation and growth.

Organisational agility can help answer these challenges. It breaks down silos and focuses on building incremental value, letting organisations respond to internal and external changes quickly. It also focuses on positive relationships, empowering teams to take decisions and manage work, and recognises that most people want a greater sense of purpose from what they do.

Our survey of over 500 business leaders from across industries also found that the most successful organisations in financial terms were 30 per cent more agile. It’s no surprise, then, that becoming more agile is a top priority for almost three-quarters of respondents.

The trouble with embarking on an agile transformation is that it’s easy to underestimate its complexity. Achieving organisational agility isn’t a technical change to a few systems but a fundamental evolution of the end-to-end operating model and culture. Having delivered over 100 agile transformations across industries and geographies, we know there are four common sticking points along this journey:

  1. Governance – organisations often apply traditional governance, such as waterfall approval processes, and lack the buy-in of senior leaders.
  2. Finance – agile organisations need a different approach to funding projects as they switch from one-off investments in change to continuous financing of improvements.
  3. HR – often, HR remains a central function with complex practices that don’t align with agile ways of working.
  4. Culture – an agile culture promotes self-organising teams, decentralised decision-making and uncertainty.

To release the full value of an agile transformation, organisations need to capture the opportunities inherent in these challenges. In our experience, that comes down to five key actions.

Did you know the top 10% of financial performers are 30% more agile than the rest?

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Empower your cultural architects

The role of an agile leader is significantly different to that of traditional leaders. So, to see a genuine shift in culture, it’s important to start from the top. Invest in leadership development, define the role of a leader in the new organisation and reward leadership agility.

Create a change journey

Agile transformations are complex change projects. Success relies on driving the transformation by defining and communicating the case for change, and clearly outlining the structure for its delivery. It’s vital to balance these structured components by engaging employees and embedding new behaviours.

In the initial phases, invite people from across the organisation to become your change agents. These early adopters can then evangelise the change naturally, but ensure you have a plan to scale fast or those initial teams could break away culturally and inadvertently create an ‘us and them’ mentality.

Bring your teams together

Co-locating teams can be a powerful tool for disseminating knowledge during an agile transformation. Many have debated the need for agile teams to sit together, but in the early stages of maturity there are big benefits around streamlining collaboration and communication.

Recognise the diversity of your workforce

Everyone in your organisation is unique in their experiences and outlook. This diversity is a powerful tool for driving innovation. And recognising that people will view an agile transformation differently is vital to ensuring the change runs smoothly. So, tailor communications and transformation plans to your target audiences.

Get close to your customer

To be agile you must bring your customer into your product and service development process. Work with them to gather real-world feedback and act on it quickly to improve customer experiences.

Agile transformations are powerful tools for unlocking innovation and growth. There are challenges that will be difficult to overcome when embarking on such a journey, but the opportunities are worth the effort.

Contact the authors

Contact the Agile team

Sam Bunting

Sam Bunting

Mark Griep

Mark Griep

Mitzi Geisler

Mitzi Geisler

Tina Hjort Ejlertsen

Tina Hjort Ejlertsen

Ali Rana

Ali Rana


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