Tuesday, September 8, 2015

An Agile Board

Agile is more a "direction," than an "end," a philosophy and mindset at Board level.

Many forward-looking organizations are shifting from doing Agile to being Agile. Agile is more as a mindset, a set of principles and a type of digital culture, rather than the methodology or technology only. Corporate Board as one of the most important governance bodies in the modern business, defines governance principles and practices, oversees business strategy, provisions resources, and sets business culture tones as well. The agile shift is one of the most significant aspects of digital transformation, but how to build an Agile Board that help lead the business toward the right direction?

Agile philosophy: Agile is more a "direction," than an "end." At Board level, Agile needs to be the philosophy to perceive multidimensional business values. Make the effort at the leadership and portfolio level to qualify and quantify value in terms of both strategic value and tactical value; direct revenue and indirect (mission/vision/values) terms is the first step to crafting high-level strategic intents. Transforming to Agile culture means the Board set the right tones and advise the business on the direction they want to go on, and as the people start “putting on” the agile mindset, discover new ways of working, collaborating, delivering value, they inspect and adapt in that journey by overcoming the frictions and challenges. Transforming to Agile culture means that the business knows the direction they want to go on, and definitely measure and test the direction continuously to make sure the business is on the right course. As the people discover new ways of working, collaborating, delivering value, they inspect and adapt in that journey. In order to manage a smooth agile culture shift at Board level, consider such factors as Mindset, Communication, Technical Maturity, Capabilities, Culture, Collaboration Tools, etc.


Agile leadership. The Board and CXOs have to be able to articulate where the company is now headed and what is required from employees. Hence, the foresight is essential. To do this, a director must anticipate the conversational direction and decision-making voices in a dynamic boardroom brainstorm. An interesting exercise is to ask Board members to recite the company ‘elevator speech’ – what do they say in less than 10 seconds in the elevator when someone asks, “What does this company do?” Surprisingly, few can do it unless they have been through some kind of ‘culture change’ program. However, without clarity at the top, it’s hard to expect agile transformation would be shifted successfully. The Agile leadership at Board level also means the BoDs will continue to learn the latest digital trends that could have a huge impact for business’s long-term growth, being learning agile to adapt to changes. Then communicate them often – a strong and cohesive leadership can sprout them easily and often. Repetition = penetration = impact.


Agile GRC: At Board Level, what the top management concerns is all about “Being Agile,” via effective risk management and governance practices. The board considers risk in order to ensure that the risk appetite applied by management is consistent with its views. That resources are applied as required. That management is actually managing risks. The high-level Agile framework is a tool which should provide visibility, alignment, ensure resource allocation and provide an aid to management. It is not risk management itself. Risk management comprises the actions that people take every day. Risk management involves competency, systems, processes, culture etc. And it is done every day by all employees and every day. But the board monitors it. And at the tactical level, follow Agile principles to deliver customer value is the core in Agile management and methodology.


Agile is the mindset and the philosophy. An Agile Board advocates the multidimensional business value, once the values have been impregnated into the corporate culture, the next step seems to come naturally for the whole organization adopting and scaling agile seamlessly, with strong agile leadership and clearly annunciated values comes higher staff morale. When the Board follows the Agile principles, sets the positive tone about the culture of learning and customer-centricity, people will feel good about ‘the way we do things around here.’ The good thing about ‘feelings’ is they can be measured, benchmarked and measured again. This step is more a benefit than an ingredient. If people ‘feel’ good about the company, they deliver more. That’s the beauty of being Agile, to unleash both talent potential and business potential.

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