The meaning of agile by definition: 1. able to move quickly and easily; 2. able to think quickly and clearly; 3. making changes as they are needed. You can find these characteristics in most video games associated to quick, tricky and nimble characters.
Its meaning is similar to businesses and organizations, agile often means the opposite of pure power due to the size or economic strength of an organization. The outcome of a competition could frequently be the same as it is in games – the victory of agility over size or strength. How is that possible? How can we achieve it?
Ever changing business environment
Agile emergence as a global trend – way beyond software development – is driven by the discovery that the best way for organizations to cope with today’s turbulent customer-driven marketplace is to become Agile. Implementing agile methodologies enables organizations to master continuous change. It permits companies to flourish in a world that is increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. In the current circumstances any new innovation can win the jackpot or fail miserably for businesses. The table turns quickly and everyone wants everything promptly in the best quality – including the customers, the shareholders and the employees. (Have you already faced similar challenges?)
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Agile people drive agile transformations
Due to the above-mentioned trends and challenges the use of Agile processes and methodologies have become really popular and relevant in the past few years or so – organizations want to drive their Agile transformations (not only in IT departments) rapidly. For those who have already designed their organizations up for the Agile workflow – like many startups – it is a piece of cake, but it is not that easy for the rigidly structured companies with a hierarchical “silo” style culture. To them transformation takes serious efforts that leads through a number of challenges. Many studies concluded that the reason for that is the lack of demonstration of strong decision-making skills in leadership, while it is also hard to re-design the organizational structure in a way that satisfies everybody. However, the biggest challenge, yet, is still the transformation of a company’s existing manpower – the same people from whom, until now, the organization expected to follow rules, work hard, be prudent and make no mistakes. The same people who didn’t know what to do with the harbingers of change-management and game-changers. And now expectations are to take risks, learn from mistakes and extremely fast execution. Is it really that surprising then that those people welcome this new organizational model with caution?
How to begin the Agile Transformation?
The success of Agile transformation depends on how you change the mindset of these people which necessitates also the change of company culture. Decisions can be made, the organizational structure can be re-modelled, but people won’t change from one moment to another just because they are now expected to, and they won’t operate accordingly just because the title of their positions has changed. What they can do is following good leaders and keep repeating the same behavior that rewards them and lose the one that leads to retribution. Reward and retribution, however, is also in the hands of the leader.
Therefore, the first step of this transformation is finding the right leaders that essentially necessitates creating the Agile leadership profile.
Fortunately, the phenomenon of an Agile person is based on an existing cluster of traits that can be captured by any proper psychological personality model. Based on the well-known Big 5, for instance, it means a person with moderate emotional stability, strong extroversion, strong interpersonal sensitivity, moderate conscientiousness, and strong open-mindedness. Types like this exist in any top management or can be hired externally, you just need to assess their competencies objectively and give them power accordingly. As soon as the right leaders who will lead this transformation are in place comes the heavy lifting.
Here comes the heavy lifting!
The biggest challenges come in this next phase, where it comes to the transformation of the regular employees.
The people who, until now, were taught to be conscious and to be able to maximize emotional stability, and who the organization only rewarded when they did their jobs according to these principles. When working on the transformation of these people bear in mind that they are usually the ones terrified of this change which strongly encourages re-routing plans and direction, not to mention that these teams pose a more significant extent of weakness in change-management because of having a hard time letting go of the old well-known ways and wrapping their minds around the new one, while suddenly facing much more high-scale changes in much shorter periods of time. Therefore, to these people communication is key, for which opinion-leaders with Agile markers in their personalities are also key to lead the way. Once that’s in place, we can start with targeted and objective development of people (coaching, training, mentoring), and constant support needs to be provided throughout and after the transformation period. Initial communication can be one-sided, however, it’s necessary to support people at emotional and problem-solving levels as well.
According to most definitions (e.g. Klein or Schein) the organization is a union of people or teams who work together towards one common goal. It comes as no surprise then that an Agile organization has to be a union of Agile people or teams who work together towards one common goal, but with often changing direction. Therefore, an effective Agile transformation starts with the people whose competencies are being assessed and developed. Not to mention that an Agile organization often switches paradigms based on the latest and most modern assessment results, so assessment, data and analysis are by default its essential characteristics.
Gábor Füzér – Assessment Systems Hungary
Would you like to transform to and run a successful agile organization?
Want to learn more about how Assessment Systems can help your organization
to assess, select and develop the most suitable people for the Agile mindset?