To be or not to be – agile

For most of the organizations, agility is only a dream. A company cannot become agile, without being able to explain the root causes for being slow. To reach agility, organizations need to break down the silos and become more fluent decision makers.

Consultants and management loudly praise for agility. Often the reality is far from it. When solving slowness, there needs to be a proper analysis about the current friction in decision making. Understanding the prerequisites of being quick and smart enables a change in the current mode.

Next, I will indicate solutions to obtain agility. Some of the thoughts have been inspired by the excellent Harvard Business Review article The Decision Driven Organization (HBR June 2010 by Blenko-Mankins-Rogers) that discusses the correlation between the quality of decision making vs. business performance.

In search for agility, there are alternative approaches

  • Restructured organization map. This may be a favorite solution for the top management. However, the slowness is rarely behind the organization map. The root causes for being slow are more caused by organizational silos, mental barriers – territories protected by strong individuals. This is a cultural issue.
  • Strong focus on decision making quality and culture. This is the point that was raised by the HBR article The Decision Driven Organization. The article (the larger version) shows strong evidence on how quality of decision making drives innovativeness and business performance. One of the theses in this article is: “When reorganizing the company, the way-to-decide rather than organizational structures should be in the focus”.
  • Sharpened roles and responsibilities. There are major differences between the organizations in the accuracy of the roles statement. Especially matrix organizations tend to have a dilemma with managing people and budget resources – and consolidate the roles. If responsibilities and target setting on individual level were clear, the limits for decision making are unquestioned. This brings fluency in decision making.
  • Implementation fluency of development projects. Why is implementation so hard? Often, due to under-resourced activities. Even more often, because of insufficient people involvement during the projects.

It is a common misunderstanding that large involvement of different roles, units, and areas would take more time from the development projects. This is completely wrong thinking. With the modern facilitation techniques, vast collaboration may be realized with sprint solutions, still being profound in the outcome, and innovative – with better quality.  With large people involvement in new business concepts design, the buy-in is better guaranteed; resulting agility in implementation.

To become agile, consider the following:

  • Identify the root causes for slow motion of projects implementation.
  • Benchmark the clarity of roles and responsibility definitions with other companies.
  • Make a pilot project to totally break down the organizational silos. Test for changing the roles – only for one day or week.
  • Nominate a responsible person to analyze the implementation of decisions.

As a result, the blind spots will appear. Be ready to make honest conclusions about the effectiveness of the company decision making.


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