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Is Your Strategy Process Agile?

There is no doubt that more disruption lies ahead; it’s the new norm now. What you did yesterday and are currently doing will most likely not work tomorrow.

Recent findings by a consulting company indicates that, nearly three-­‐quarters of companies are in a state of disruption. And no industry is immune—from manufacturers such as consumer goods companies to banks in financial services. The sharp contrast difference between those who thrive amid disruption and those who don’t are summed up in three words: Purpose. Agility. Culture.

The companies that thrive are those that go further in driving transformation by investing with purpose, adopting agile operating principles, and empowering people at all levels of the organization

Those who have adopted these approaches based on agile methodology are ahead of the disruption. Although, Agile started out as an IT approach with a focus on customer value, it has gone beyond that and altered entire organizations. The first, obviously, is speed. The more virtual, information-­‐rich and service-­‐based a business model is the faster change happens. The second, perhaps less obvious force, is change. Change is now much more systemic among interdependent or convergent industries, where the consequences of change in one industry may have ripple effects on many others.

Today, many companies are ill-­‐prepared to face these twin challenges and to rejuvenate their strategy process. Companies are often victims of their own success. They die not because what they did was wrong, but because they kept doing it for too long. In addition, the strategy process itself may well have decayed.

In contrast to traditional strategy patterns, an Agile approach to strategy capitalizes on Agile procedures, mindsets and ceremonies. Strategic opportunities are discussed, evaluated, broken down into sizable and manageable constituents, prioritized, executed, constantly monitored and revised by a strategy team or dedicated function. In doing so, the strategic direction is frequently checked towards strategic impediments and reviewed in terms of changing needs.

Agile transformation is a complex organizational change, and successful implementation requires strong leadership and buy-in from everyone in the organization. If your organization is struggling to adopt Agile, it may not be clear what is hindering the transition.

Let’s look at some common pitfalls, along with some tips to overcome them.

Lack of team buy‐in. Adopting Agile at the team level is critical. Remember, your teams are the ones responsible for making it all happen and delivering tangible results to customers.

Decisions involve only executives. Top leadership may be responsible for managing most of your organization’s operations, but if you want your team to respond, be proactive and support change, you must empower them to share their ideas and concerns. Agile transformation is possible only if you get everyone on the same page and excited for change.

The team is pushed to adopt and obey. Leaders can sometimes be too eager in their desire to change how things are done. Don’t forget that your team needs to change their whole way of thinking. If they feel pressured to do so without a clear reason, you may face resistance.

Lack of context. Your team may find it hard to follow new practices if they don’t understand the meaning behind them. If you fail to provide context for Agile principles, team members won’t necessarily see why they should do things one way over another.

Lack of training. Agile has become popular over the last decade, but that doesn’t mean that all your team members know what it’s about. It’s not enough to skim the Scrum guide and call it a day. Agile practices carry a certain mindset, and you may need an Agile coach to guide the team through the process and help them understand what is required.

So how agile is your strategy process, really? The good news is that achieving strategic agility is not black magic. First, it is attention to strategic sensitivity. Second, it is collective commitment and discipline in the working of a top team and executives who have the courage to lead. Third, it is building organisational infrastructure, resource allocation processes, people management, and modular structures and business processes that can be reconfigured fast and provide resource fluidity.

The bad news is that strategic agility is not a piecemeal ‘to do’ list. All three dimensions – strategic sensitivity, leadership unity and resource fluidity – are important. Being good at one, or even two, or working hard to rebuild selectively some capabilities and not others, will not help much. It may even lead you to a dead end.

Help is available. If you would like to review your strategic management processes or build one, we can provide guidance of ensuring agility along the way.

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