The response from management is often that the organisation should become more innovative, agile, flexible and so on and so forth. There is an overarching desire to create an organisation that is able to quickly and efficiently adapt to the internal and external requirements – in other words, an agile organisation.
However, this will require a new approach to management. An approach in which the management team does not become the bottleneck for decisions, but in which decisions and responsibilities are delegated to those who are able to bring the solutions to the table. An approach with constant focus on eliminating obstacles for employees and optimising processes. But also an approach in which management defines a clear vision and direction that enables optimisation and decision-making.
The challenge is to find the right balance between increased autonomy for employees and having clear guidelines and decision paths in the organisation. Just imagine what would happen if a football team without tactics, coach or captain were playing a field without any clearly defined lines and corner flags. It would not be a pretty sight as both guidelines and autonomy are needed.
Three recommendations for increased organisational agility
Based on our experience with both start-ups and major agile transformations, we would argue that there are three basic recommendations that can contribute to increasing organisational agility – that will make it possible to quickly and efficiently adapt to both internal and external demands and requirements.
Recommendation 1: Learn from previous experiences
There is often so much focus on reaching a target and then the next task that you forget to learn from the experiences you make along the way. This could in worst case mean that your target remains out of reach.
A solution to this dilemma could be to introduce retrospective meetings. They are known from among others the agile method Scrum but can be applied everywhere. In short, the retrospective meeting creates a space for openly sharing knowledge and experience of:
- What works and should be maintained
- What doesn’t work
- What should we begin to do differently
And yes, this will add yet another meeting to your crowded calendars. But we dare to claim that the retrospective meeting is the only meeting you must never miss out on. This is the meeting where learnings are accumulated, and where progress can be accelerated.
The retrospective meeting should provide everyone with the opportunity to be heard and to provide input, which creates a feeling of security. Security enables a freer flow of thoughts, which will enable new ways of working to be identified. It will also train participants in thinking outside the box and finding solutions, which is an ability that they can benefit from in their daily work.
It is important that the retrospective meeting becomes a fixed routine and not an ad hoc meeting. Have the meeting every Friday, discuss how the week went, and plan how to make next week even more efficient.
Once you have read the rest of this article, go straight to Outlook, and send out invitations for your first retrospective meeting next Friday for one hour – and make sure to set it up as a recurring meeting.
Recommendation 2: Create transparency, and coordinate
Progress requires transparency as well as cross-functional alignment and coordination. Whereas the retrospective meeting allows you to follow up on your way of working, there is still need for continuously solving challenges and ensuring cross-functional alignment. We would therefore recommend another element from the agile word, namely a so-called Scrum of Scrums meeting. However, the name in itself is irrelevant. The purpose is for representatives from the individual departments, projects, etc. to meet for just 15 minutes at the same time on a daily basis and discuss what everyone is working on, which obstacles lie ahead, and who will handle them.
Functional Director in the Danish agency for development and simplification, Thomas Monefeldt, who is among other things responsible for the new tax collection system in SKAT, the Danish Customs and Tax Administration, states: “The agile work methods have in our work on developing the tax collection system of the future helped create transparency in a large and complex development programme, and they have made the cooperation across many parties easier and more flexible.”
A Scrum of Scrums meeting is a highly efficient way to identify, delegate and solve obstacles, and in just 15 minutes, the management team will have gained an updated insight into what needs to be solved to ensure progress. The meeting should be strictly facilitated to ensure that it always begins and ends on time, and that everyone gets heard. A board with post-its is often used to maintain an overview of tasks. It will take a week of training, but after that, you will easily be able to go through 10 departments in 15 minutes!
Just consider how much time you could save on long status meetings, and how much faster you would be able to identify and solve any challenges.
This is why you should once more open Outlook and invite the representatives of the individual departments, projects, etc. to the planning of your first Scrum of Scrums meeting and the future rhythm of meetings. As with the retrospective meeting, the key is to set up a regular routine.
Recommendation 3: Group competences in cross-functional teams
During the retrospective meetings, challenges such as “cross-functional cooperation” and “access to people with the relevant information and knowledge” are recurring themes. This is often due to the way the organisation is designed. A critical success factor in many of the most innovative firms is that they group professional skills in teams and assign the individual cross-functional team a task to be solved from beginning to end. This is different from traditional division of labour in which one department first solves part of a task after which another department continues solving the task, etc.
You should therefore immediately invite the other managers in your company and identify how to set up the first cross-functional team irrespective of department or any other organisational affiliations.
What are you waiting for?
This final recommendation may take a bit longer to set up than the first two recommendations, but it is also the one that has the highest potential for accelerating your progress and ability to handle new internal and external demands.
The first two recommendations you will be able to implement tomorrow, and with thorough facilitation, you will quickly feel the difference and find that you are able to cut out other meetings. You will also find that you have achieved a higher level of transparency and coordination as well as have created freedom to optimise and innovate.