Thursday, June 20, 2013

Seven Pillars of Agile Organization

Agile goes beyond as a methodology, it’s a mind shift, and management discipline.

One thing is certain: Change is no longer something that happens periodically. It’s continuous—constant and unrelenting. Agility is the dynamic capability that allows organizations to adapt their substantive capabilities. 

Being agile means anticipating likely change and addressing it deftly, keeping business on course and customers satisfied. To achieve those goals, agility must be built into an organization’s very foundation, from strategy to design, people, processes, and supporting technology. Here are seven pillars of Agile organization. 

  1. Agile Strategy 

When the environment is so unpredictable, how can business apply the traditional forecasting and analysis that are at the heart of strategic planning? The volatility of the current market further complicates detailed planning and requires an even greater time commitment, preventing involved managers and employees from taking part in critical business activities

  • Strategy Planning becomes a "living process" with regular evaluation, scanning, listening, revisiting and potential course correction. There is no "predictable future", but there are many possible ones. Long term planning has its place, but linearity and over prescriptive-ness" don't. If you laid all of the corporate strategists in the world end-to-end you wouldn't reach a consensus. 
  • Agility is the strategic mix of standardization and flexibility, targeted at those organizational pressure points where they’re not only needed today but will most likely be needed tomorrow. In order to survive and thrive amid constant change, companies must reclaim the right balance of standardization and flexibility and build strategic and operational agility into their business foundations. By developing a business agility blueprint—a shared view of an organization that promotes deeper understanding of core processes, risks, and transformational opportunities—business leaders can approach change confidently 
  • Alternatively, companies can explore having a base plan as well as a stretch plan; this dual approach requires clear top-down expectations for targets. It requires coherence of culture, strategy and leadership. Culture and leadership need to foster agile mindset and behaviors, supported by aligned policies and practice. The strategy needs to respond continuously to change with speed and through informed decisions. 

2.    Agile Architecture 

Incorporating agility into a business foundation or architecture requires new ways of thinking, new approaches to enterprise architecture and business process design. The failure to build flexibility into both organizational design and operations can threaten a company’s survival, as your environment 'will' change, so anything that you do too far "up front" is likely to be wrong in the future.

  • EA needs to keep modular design and continuous planning: The agile practices address this using a short feedback loop (plan, try, test, and learn); so that you never get too far away out on a tangent on the manifold of reality. From EA perspective, it’s about how to keep modular design, continue planning and improving, and then fulfill EA purpose--to bridge strategy and execution, transcend business into next level.  
  • Agility isn’t inherited like some trait passed on through or organization’s DNA, you have to work hard to achieve it. It isn’t permanent either, once achieved you have to work hard to maintain agility. One of the key things in the architecture space is the relationship between various dimensions of an enterprise. Agility isn’t just synonymous with innovation and product development, agility can help to improve performance across the entire range of organizational activities 
  • Agile, in or of itself, is more about inspecting and adapting the process to what suits the specific and unique needs of your organization according to its environment and culture while abiding by its fundamentals 
-The way forward
- Use some sort of baseline in discussions
- Start thinking in terms of ‘may’ rather than ‘must’
- EA is not one thing, it is many things
- EA is an umbrella term for the many things
- These many things should be designed, structured, architected so that they are a coherent, integrated set of things which can be used jointly and severally  

3.    Agile Project Management 

Agile is a natural evolution in software development processes, to adapt to rapid changes; Agile is an emerging methodology with many advantages such as faster release cycle, iterative communication, more end customer focus. It's the right way to do software or run business strategically, methodologically and tactically. 

  • Agile requires good engineering disciplines. It also requires some business disciplines. Agile has to be continually tweaked for it to work. Because, as a new practice in many organizations, it also causes further concerns: Is Agile the cause for defect increase? Does Agile make most of the customers more satisfied? Does Agile improve project success rate? What’re pitfalls to adopt Agile? 
  • For Agile SWLC, change management needs to go with Agile hand-in-hand, with senior leadership support, cross-functional communication, and a clear vision of the project.  
  • Processes alone do not deliver the product. It takes people, resources, processes and values to make a successful delivery. All of these must be reviewed in context together if one is to find the root cause and apply effective countermeasures. Agile promotes teamwork, iterative communication, and incremental improvement 

4.    Agile Process Management 

With the right mix of process standardization and flexibility in place, business leaders can efficiently anticipate and execute on change, turning scenario planning from a theoretical exercise into a real decision shaper

  • Creating agile repeatable processes which can be changed quickly as needed. Create a common picture, understanding, and vocabulary of the way the enterprise operates. 
  • Identify additional capabilities, processes, and technology which may be needed to reduce operating costs, improving profitability, reducing process cycle times, Improve quality  
  • Develop more effective governance models, systems, and processes of improving agility and flexibility. Identify ways of realizing the end-to-end monitoring of key performance indicators and critical success factors.

5.    Agile Budget Planning 

Any good leader/manager will routinely monitor his/her budget and create either formal or informal forecasts as the environment continually shifts. Changes to that forecast have to be communicated early and often so that you purposefully don't wind up with those big surprises at the end of the fiscal year.

  • Shorten the Planning Cycle. A shorter cycle puts the emphasis on speed and flexibility and results in less overall company coordination, fewer parallel and redundant activities, and less frustration. Effective planning—and a more realistic outcome—results from striking a balance between the setting of targets (ambitions) and light but frequent forecasting. 
  • The agile budgeting focus is on optimizing use of resources based on rolling forecasts and not adhering blindly to fixed annual plans and budgets. Similar to the way Agile IT uses an iterative approach to developing systems, some innovative organizations use iterative budgets based on continuous feedback from real world events and actual operating results. 
  • Identify Opportunity Timely. Instead of blindly carrying out projects because they are in the annual budget, agile finance people continually identify opportunities with the highest return and allocate resources appropriately to profit from those opportunities. These agile pioneers advocate doing quarterly or even monthly forecasts instead of one big annual forecast and dynamic resource allocation based on emerging threats and opportunities. 

6.    Agile Talent Management

Today’s workforce is more global, flexible and virtual as the world becomes so volatile, uncertain, and ambiguous, meanwhile, today’s employees value different things compared to previous generations of workers. Therefore, talent management as a business-critical process needs to be agile in adapt to the accelerated change facing in organization.

  • There needs to be broad management support for Agile talent management and an understanding that it means empowering staff to make data-based decisions by accessing right information at the right time. 
  • Focus on the fact that the fundamental nature of enterprise/business consists of human social systems, which are partially designed (or even architected), but are also grown, matured, and evolved. A culture of passionate people that embrace change and seek understanding will be paramount. Share early and share often, cross-functional collaboration and iterative communication are encouraged to optimize business agility.  
  • Not only that, the "components" of such human social systems include *aspects* of human beings who have purpose, intent and attitude to openness, who take full responsibility for their activities and goals, and who are spurred to make radical change and aim for break through innovation even facing failures. And finally, you need an audience and organization with a focus on people and results, which celebrates small successful steps but keep the focus on long term objectives.  

7.    Agile Governance 

How do you manage unpredictability, rather than focusing on how to control the environment and how to make it more predictable or manageable, from managerial and governance perspective, how to become comfortable with turbulence or the unknown, and to focus on the organization’s ability to respond with the environment.

  • Agile Governance produces awareness by generating ‘consilience’ (coherence + resilience). EA as governance tool can help you remember what you know you know, and it can help you chip away at what you know you don't know. It can even help you realize what you didn't know you knew. That's how governance practices might bring you infinitely close to full awareness! Of course, you can't avoid all the laws of the universe: EA may not be able to help you with the knowledge you don't know you didn't know. That's why it might not help you leap the gap between the immediate outcome of the Endeavour (you succeed in transforming the enterprise as intended) and the outcome you ultimately desire 
  • You also likened awareness to enterprise transparency. Agile Governance Planning is a key steering instrument that will influence the overall direction of the business. There might very well be differing opinions within divisions, among divisions, or between the divisions and corporate headquarters about the best direction to take. These differences have to be made transparent, and all relevant stakeholders must reach consensus on the best path forward through effective governance disciplines. . 
  • In order to make changes to their planning systems, companies must acknowledge the necessary tradeoffs involved. One point of struggles is governance taking away liberties that are essential to people doing their jobs at creative way, if there's a problem with trust then governance will suffer, because motivations are not aligned across organizational boundaries.
Therefore, Agile goes beyond as a methodology, it’s a mindset shift, management discipline and governance practice, Agility is also not just the ability to change. It is a cultivated dynamic capability that enables an organization with solid agile pillars to respond in a timely, effective, and sustainable way when changing circumstances require it.

Read more about Agile Pillars:
Is Agile Strategy on the Way
Main Characteristics of Agile Enterprise Architecture
Three Perspectives in Agile Success
Agile Process Management
Agile Budget Planning
Agile Talent Management
Agile Governance


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