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Adding Agility without Chaos

There is a lot of talk about organizational transformation – much of it focused on why most transformation projects fail. Well, perhaps transformation is not an ‘all or nothing’ proposition. 

As you ponder the prospect of transforming you organization – its culture, structure or anything else – why not first identify those critical projects and vital teams that you want to infuse with new agility and innovation and start there.

Business As Usual

Central to the effective every-day operation of your organization is a set of tried-and-tested processes, systems and structures. 

In most areas of activity these proven methods have served (and continue to serve) your organization well. They provide the stability, predictability and control essential to the running of a complex organization. 

Business Unusual

When it comes to ‘business as usual’ things are well under control.  However, for activities that fall outside the norm – launching new products, technologies or business models/channels – the traditional ways of working often seem to come up short.  They struggle to provide the speed and innovation that is required in an increasingly fast changing and competitive world.

What makes for effective ‘business as usual’ often hinders ‘business unusual’.  That is the execution of those critical projects that have the potential to shape the future of the organization, but also require the organisation to stretch beyond what is familiar and predictable.

When innovation trumps control, hierarchal lines of reporting often slow decision making, with functional silos stifling collaboration and traditional metrics shunting risk taking or experimentation.

A Dual System

In a hierarchy there is order and structure – people know who is in charge and how decisions are made. It is generally clear what results are required and how they are to be measured. However, most innovative projects span departments and functions, with much of the work being done outside the traditional hierarchy. 

When you take away the hierarchy and replace it with a matrix or network of teams, knowing who is in charge or what the key priorities are can become confusing. People don’t just have one boss anymore, they may have several.  The same applies to targets and priorities too.

In reality organizations need the ‘tried and tested’ – even the bureaucratic and hierarchical.  But they also need the innovative and agile.  They need a ‘dual system’ that allows both to co-exist:

  • Standardized and efficient processes or controls when it comes to the daily operation of the business
  • Speed and agility in those areas that require innovation. 

Too much speed and agility can result in chaos. Too little can result in lethargy. Getting the balance right is key.

Agility at the Edges

Rather than trying to transform your entire organization at once, why not start with those critical projects and vital teams.  Start there to infuse new agility, collaboration and innovation.

Pitstops infuse traditional processes and structures with additional agility and innovation. They are low risk because they are not dependent on organizational or cultural change/transformation. It is a targeted approach – focusing agility and innovation where it is most needed – on those critical projects and vital teams that require greater agility and innovation and need it right away.

…perhaps transformation is not an ‘all or nothing’ proposition.

Too much speed and agility can result in chaos. Too little can result in lethargy.

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