What Are the Key Steps to Making an Organization Agile?

What Are the Key Steps to Making an Organization Agile?

By Discovery Lean Six Sigma

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Whether an organization has established a formal plan or not, implementing a more nimble and efficient business model is essential.

It requires deep changes in how a business operates. It will not happen overnight. But the results are well worth the effort.

Many organizations, however, are still in the initial stages of this change.

The “Achieving Greater Agility” report from the Project Management Institute and KPMG offered telling statistics on the implementation of Agile: 92% of business leaders surveyed said agility is critical to business success. Yet, only 27% consider their organization as being highly agile.

Where it All Starts – Seeing the Value

Adopting the principles of process improvement doesn’t necessarily have to start at the top of the organization. In some ways, it may prove better if it starts in middle or upper management. That way, it isn’t seen as yet another dictate from the C-suites.

That said, at some point there must be executive buy-in. Otherwise, according to the report, efforts to make an organization more agile will become isolated in one area and never provide benefits to the whole organization. Developing employees with training in Agile, Lean and Six Sigma can prove a huge benefit in this area.

Getting buy-in involves understanding the value of agility and making a transformation. Issues such as cutting waste, making better products for customers and faster speed-to-market ability should be emphasized. Agreement on the need for a change is often the first step to make that change happen.

Steps For Transformation

Not every organization is exactly the same. However, over time, certain approaches have proven to support success when it comes to making an organization more agile, They include the following, courtesy of PMI and research firm McKinsey & Company.

  • Establish a formal transformation program – perhaps through creation of a Project Management Office – that reports directly to the chief executive officer
  • Coordinate change management across the entire organization, but divide the effort into smaller pieces to control the impact of change
  • Invest in training and coaching people to help them transition to new roles
  • Don’t do it all at once, but rather implement the transformation in waves that coordinate the needed management, technology and support for each wave
  • Because it’s a continuous change, ensure that the changes are monitored and adjustments are made as needed – this also prevents stalling out on the transformation

Roadblocks in the Way

There can be roadblocks to this sort of transformation. Otherwise, every company would have already become “highly agile,” not just 27%.

Company Culture

Company culture may be the biggest roadblock. This starts at the top. Leadership must have buy-in and encourage a culture of experimentation and learning from (hopefully, fast) failure. Not having an organization-wide view on process improvement means it is difficult to change a culture that wants to do things as they’ve always been done.

In short, process improvement and agility must become strategic priorities.

Improper Planning

Improper planning is another roadblock. For example, it’s imperative to continuing to support old approaches as the transition is made to new ones. That’s why the advice on “waves” is so important. Changes should be rolled out in a way that benefits the organization, not disrupts it.

Not Investing in Employees

Good process improvement strategies value people first. It’s important that organizations invest the time in training employees to become adept at a methodology – such as the belt levels awarded in Lean Six Sigma – and putting what they’ve learned into practice.

There may be other roadblocks, depending on the nature of the organization. But, as the PMI Achieving Greater Agility report showed, more than 90% of organizational leaders think agility is needed for businesses that want to succeed. Knowing the goal is important. Getting there is the real challenge.

 

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Posted: December 21, 2018, 12:00 pm

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