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The quest for agile

What are the rules for survival as a company in a time of rapid and constant change? Become agile or become extinct.

An age of transformation

We know it. We see it. We feel it.

Everything around us is changing. Four decades ago no one owned a computer. Today we walk around with smartphones that are more powerful than we could ever imagine a computer becoming 40 years ago.

It is well known that the technological development is predominately evolving at an exponential pace, but its ramifications are of unfathomable dimensions. Think of the way you engage socially. The way you make transactions. The way you obtain information.

Just think of the endless possibilities you can access from the spot you’re reading this. Almost everything as we know it has changed dramatically in just a couple of decades. A complete digitalization of our society is imminent.

A paradox

There is an interesting paradox that we are facing as individuals, companies and societies. We have never been this good at analysing data, nor have we ever amassed so much data about anything as we have today. Still the world has never been more uncertain, unpredictable, complex and volatile.

So how can one stay ahead in a world that keeps accelerating, not least as a competitive company? According to articles from publications as Forbes and Harvard Business Review, the answer to this challenge lies in becoming agile.

The DNA of Agile

Agile is essentially about innovation. It is a theory and a set of revolving methodologies. The concept arose as an opponent to the ‘command-and-control-style management’ that developed at the beginning of the industrial age.

Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support their need, and trust them to get the job done.

Companies such as Microsoft, Spotify, Riot Games and General Electric have all realized the potential of being agile. They have begun implementing agile practices such as ‘scrum’, where small cross-functional teams engage in a task independently and autonomously. It is about removing friction and cutting off redundant meetings. It aims to create synergy by combining strengths and different competences from every section in the company. To be agile is to realize the qualities of each individual, but more importantly to connect them into an efficient collective.

In an agile operating model it must be crystal clear who is responsible for commissioning a cross-functional team, selecting and replacing team members, appointing the team leader, and approving the team’s decisions.
A living organism

Agile is certainly a buzzword that you will hear in most companies, but not all manage to actually implement and live by its principles. To be agile as a company you need to apply an organismic approach to your organization.

An organism is always aware of its environment. Its development is contingent upon the variations in its surroundings. In the same way, a company must always pay attention to the source that keeps it alive, which usually means its customers. What are their needs? How can we make their life easier? If a company cannot answer questions like these, it will share the same fate as an organism failing to adapt – it will perish.

If you’re in doubt whether your workplace is staying agile or heading into troubles, then take a look around. How is work organized? Do you have autonomy in your job? How is communication flowing? How fast can a decision be made? What question are you trying to solve, one of your own or one of your customers’? These questions may help you identify if your company is agile and ready for the capricious future.

Agile teams use process facilitators to continually improve their collective intelligence—for example, by clarifying roles, teaching conflict resolution techniques, and ensuring that team members contribute equally
To become Agile

To sum up what it means to agile. It is about utilizing the ingenuity of your employees, your peers or your co-workers by giving them optionality and being authoritative throughout their development. Be autonomy-supportive. Implement work strategies as ‘scrum’ or ‘sprint’. Remain focused on the key objectives. If something doesn’t add value to the project, then throw it out. Make roles lucid. Let communication flow easily. Be decisive and consequent.

In terms of agile leadership, nothing captures the essence better than a quote from the French author and journalist Antoine de Saint-Exupéry:

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up your men to collect wood, don’t give orders and distribute the work. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea
Another explanation?

What do you think; do you agree with the article or is the key to staying adaptive a whole other story? Is it more complex than just staying agile?

Give us your insights in the comment section below!

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Sources: What is Agile? (Forbes) & Embracing Agile (Harvard Business Review)

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