Agile Leadership

Creating the Agile Enterprise

Getting out of stagnant managerial job descriptions and into flexible agile management.

Employers and C-suite executives are still asking, “should we be Agile?” At a global level, a lot of things we took for granted have started to change. Countries that, for decades, have been economic partners are now suddenly at odds. All kinds of new risks have entered the equation, from deciding where to build a product to who’s going to be able to buy it.
 
There is no room for rigidity in such a situation. When the political and economic situation around the world is constantly changing, this affects not only our daily decision making as executives, but also our consumers’ sentiments.
 
In this scenario of rapid market changes, we have to be adaptable and iterative, ready to adjust course at a moment’s notice, either to seize new opportunities or to avoid a dead end. Too many enterprises stubbornly cling to waterfall management against an overwhelming track record of poor results.
 
Being an Agile enterprise is about thinking differently. At the start it’s about stepping back, gaining perspective on your organization, pinpointing failures and drawing solutions. Perhaps the most important thing enterprises can see differently is the role of the managers themselves. The purpose of enterprise agility is to create a more logical and efficient framework for getting work done. But that work gets done by people, and those people have been accustomed to working in a certain way. That’s especially true of managers.
 
The theory of management has been more studied and written about than ever before. Innovative ideas are plentiful. But has the discipline of management succeeded? Have the innovations in that area sufficiently contributed to transforming the way we work, leading toward better productivity and outputs? Along with many others, I would argue they have not.
 
There’s a myth that an Agile enterprise must be completely flat. Agile is about creating the right team dynamics that allow for collaboration and quick iterations – not just flattening out org charts. Effective process organizations don’t just eliminate management – they rethink its entire role. Getting out of stagnant managerial job descriptions and into flexible, dynamic ones is critical to Agile success.
 
Individuals heading up functions such as marketing, engineering and research have played important roles in their respective departments and have accumulated a certain amount of status and authority. While their authority doesn’t change, expectations of their role must.
 
The right manager in process transformation is committed to establishing Agile in his or her sphere of the organization. Every person with a role in the organization must feel ownership and responsibility, as must their higher-ups.