Agile is old. Good and old. The fathers of Agile started experimenting with its principles and practices back in the ‘80s, when the problem they faced was how to provide a software production team with a more sensible way to develop code and deliver actual value to the stakeholders.
The second wave of Agile, a couple of decades later, was about scaling the production beyond one single team (we are still in that wave).
The third wave of Agile, which just recently started and went well beyond the realm of IT alone, finally realized that true agility can only be achieved when: 1) it’s adopted, in context-specific ways, throughout the entire organization and; 2) it includes the way the organization interacts with its market and environment (call it Business Agility or any other similar term).
What we are seeing today in the most innovative organizations, even outside of the IT industry, is that the underlying values and principles of agility are applied with an holistic approach to all organizational functions (finance, marketing, HR, operations, governance, procurement, production and so forth).
We also seeing how the organizational structure itself and the style of leadership in these organizations have evolved, to be consistent with the way agility works and delivers on its promises.
I know quite well from my experience with clients (working with tech teams, design teams, program and project managers, executives, HR, finance) and from helping them to rethink and restructure the way their organization works, that there are many challenges that an organization has to face to make this transition — and many pitfalls as well.
Among the different challenges (learning new skills and practices, descaling processes, decentralizing decision making and accepting inherent uncertainty, just to name a few) one that is often overlooked is how to change the perception of the organization itself, so that it can become a 21st-century, adaptive organization.
In fact, while “traditional” organizations revolved mainly around production — and were therefore perceived through that set of lenses — adaptive organizations include continuous organizational learning and high-efficiency collaboration as part of their operational DNA and of their long-term sustainability and success.
Therefore, one critical question is: how can we help people shifting their perception of “what needs to be done” considering three different but interrelated dimensions? And what are the practical implications of this?
In this session I’m going to share some of the lessons I’ve learned while helping companies to rethink themselves. I’m not going to provide recipes or instructions (I don’t believe those can be replicated in a different context). Rather, I’d like to share the challenges that we encountered and talk about how the way we faced them helped the organization to grow into an adaptive one.
I’d also like to provide food for thought that might, hopefully, help executives, managers and leaders move in the direction of agility with a clearer sense of direction and with more realistic expectations.
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