Leveraging the Lean-Agile Mindset for Business Agility
By Divya Jain & Joel Oosthuizen.
Many of today’s mega corporations come from an era of a mono way of working. This way was characterized through batch-thinking, siloed business functions, centralized command to execute corporate strategy and so on. This style led to specialist teams and excellence in their output as opposed to outcome. Today’s world is constantly changing as the control moves from businesses to people.
This called for organizations to be as adaptable as the markets they operate in, not just to grow but to survive. This explains why we are in the age of agility, during the fourth industrial revolution. The word Agile as per the dictionary means ” able to move quickly and easily”. Such corporations have adopted (or in the process of adopting) newer ways of working including people centricity, dynamic living and learning organisations that allow rapid adaption to changing conditions through decentralization of decision making. All contributing to business agility.
Newer ways of working are hyper sensitive to continuous flow of value and always optimizing the biggest barrier to that flow. Teams and individuals make flow happen by pulling work as they become available to perform the work. To be able to be more productive, we need learners more than heroes.
Agile enterprises are super adaptable, and the customer drives the “Why”. The customer is now instilled in the decision-making processes for the value streams that affect them. The mindset of agile organizations is inclusive, and it understands that the organization is a learning system. This organization thrives in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world. The ability to leverage ambiguity and uncertainty forms the core of an agile mindset.
Everyday workings of the people within the organization is open, transparent, non-hierarchical. All these traits require a huge mindset shift in everyone, especially the leadership. Organizations are adopting flat structures more and more, one notable example being Holacracy. Holacracy is a method of decentralized management and organizational governance, in which authority and decision-making are distributed throughout a holarchy of self-organizing teams rather than being vested in a management hierarchy. Holacracy has been adopted by for-profit and non-profit organizations in several countries
How do we link this to business agility?
The connected consciousness of the organization is lean and agile. It is portrayed within leaders and people on all levels of the organization. Leadership must be encouraged at all levels and you don’t need a leadership title to perform acts of leadership.
Leadership has the responsibility to influence teams while team members hold each other accountable. As more and more people exhibit, learning, influencing change, the leadership style organically infiltrates the rest of the organization.
Business agility is about being creative rather than being reactive with teams, peers and organizations. Once the people in the organization sees evidence of the new behaviour, they are more likely to embrace and contribute in the new way of doing things. Thus, people are susceptible to influence when they can see outcomes of that new behaviour.
Influence through partnerships, coaching and experimentation in the organization. As with agile delivery, influence in small chunks and target your efforts based on a prioritized sequence (WSJF anyone?). Showcasing small wins compound over time and creates an unstoppable momentum of change.
What are some obstacles to be wary of?
Don’t confine the transformation efforts to Information Technology alone. Collaboration is required across the organization. Where portions of the organization do agile it creates sub-optimal areas in the value stream. Our system or value stream is only as effective as the weakest link, like a canoe team rowing erratically one side and going in circles. Your customer isn’t served well until all units are aligned toward the common goal.
How do we achieve a state of business agility?
Business Agility starts with finding ways to listening to our customers through micro feedback loops. Solutioning through Minimum Viable Products which can help organizations garner customer feedback faster. Organize teams around value streams so that we can have a flow of value to the customer. To achieve this we will need agility in Strategy, Budgeting, Hiring, Deploying, rewards and recognition, and so on. Well it’s a collaborative lean agile mindset at every level of the organization with customer centricity attitude.