The organizational ecosystem paves the way for a successful Agile Transformation

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Agile Transformations demand for an organizational preparation and a respective ecosystem. Enabling the workforce will pave the way to successfully become agile.

As pointed out in our first blog “Setting your Agile Transformation up for failure or striving for excellence”, Agile transitions come with challenges. Based on the conducted interviews we detect a consensus on how to tackle the outlined challenges: the inclusion of an Agile Coach steering the transformation can provide remedy. For detailed information read our second blog “Developing an Internal Agile Coaching Capability”.

The paradox, however, is that fulfilling a specific number of roles related to the diverse hats of an Agile Coach will not necessarily guarantee a successful Agile Transformation. In fact, the success of an agile transition depends on the organizational requirements offered: The interplay of training the working crew to actually applying alternatives to common working methods and the enablement of the management to leverage a mind-set shift. When supported by an external Agile Coaching Capability the gains of an Agile Transformation will be bigger and longer lasting.

Figure 1Training for self-organized teams

As we have shown, holding onto old patterns and routines might quickly bring down the excitement of new processes and agile tools. Instead, eliminating inflexible chains of reporting, infrequent performance reviews, and making the employees accountable for their decisions, can initiate agility company-wide. But all that glitters is not gold, when employees are overwhelmed by the great amounts of freedom and autonomy of the new way of working. Sudden decision-making responsibilities can be paralyzing. Hence, uncovering areas of improvement to enable change and adaptability towards self-organized work within the new ecosystem is highly required. When asked to search for a compelling purpose, focus on continuous optimization and create rapid and innovative ideas in interdisciplinary collaboration the interviewed experts clarified, that the employees need to be accompanied and supported throughout the journey of becoming agile.

Leadership enablement & sponsorship

Introducing more agile teams vertically and making the Agile Transformation the strategic priority horizontally also means substantial change in the leadership style. Leaders of tomorrow are required to have a basic understanding of the agile values of today. Only when they have incorporated and truly stand behind the agile vision they can lead through the long adoption process of new principles. They oversee creating a trial and error ecosystem as a prerequisite for optimization and becoming servant-leaders helping their employees grow. Some leaders might need a jolt of coaching and training to get out of their comfort zone. This might help them to let go of command and control and aim at target and track instead. Organizations are required to give their leaders time to develop the agile leadership style. Therefore, the main driver of successful agile transitions outlined by our interview partners is the enablement of leaders.

Mandate for an Agile Coach

However, as the by far most important organizational requirement mentioned by our interview partner when introducing agility, is the trust in Agile coaches‘ abilities. It takes a mandate from the management and the necessary resources for an Agile Coach to be able to work and act effectively with full credibility at employee level. The Agile Coach needs authority to act freely without constantly having to ask top-management permission to drive change initiatives. Detaching his role from the company’s structure will enable his objectiveness to detect and solve possible impediments, access all relevant employees at all hierarchical levels in the company as well as wearing the various hats described in our second blog. For that scenario to come true, the support of an Agile Coaching Capability is needed to guide the management and employees through the agility adaption process.

In summary, the crucial factor for an Agile Transformation to succeed is the focus on the people-side of a company – such as the management infusing a cultural change that is fully incorporated by the leaders and employees. The members of the organization need to have access to a holistic support system when adopting agile values, living the agile mind-set, and embracing a changed organizational ecosystem. In regards to the expert interviews at hand, the organization needs to introduce an Agile Coach as a source of trust acting as a radical accelerator of change and setting the sail for a successful and promising Agile Transformation journey.

This article was written in collaboration with my colleague Anna Bölling.

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