At the outset of my career as a Scrum Master, I eagerly absorbed information from various books on Scrum methodologies. I believed I had mastered Scrum with its standard procedures and techniques. However, I soon understood that being an effective Scrum Master involved much more. My focus had been narrowly placed on Scrum, while neglecting other crucial aspects such as facilitation, understanding team dynamics, product strategy, technical practices, organizational change, and coaching. This limited my effectiveness, as I was not appreciating the full scope of the role. I'm thankful for those who guided me to recognize the gaps in my knowledge. Years later, I consider myself a competent Scrum Master, though the true measure of my success lies in the opinions of my colleagues.
Currently, I observe similar patterns in attempts at Agile transformations in organizations. These initiatives often aim for 'Agility' but achieve little in terms of actual agile practice. The focus is typically on implementing Scrum or other selected frameworks, possibly supplemented with engineering practice improvements and training. However, this approach usually fails to yield the anticipated improvements, leading to a sense of disillusionment and stalled transformations.
My experience with numerous Agile transformations has revealed a common cause of these failures. Like my initial approach as a Scrum Master, many coaches and consultants concentrate solely on a small aspect of the transformation, inadvertently overlooking key elements. In this deep dive, we explore the six enablers of business agility that are crucial for transcending traditional operational confines and achieving enduring success.
Understanding the 6 Enablers of Business Agility
1) Leadership and Management
Leadership is the compass that guides the ship of agility. It's about transitioning from a command-and-control paradigm to one that empowers and supports. Agile leadership fosters decentralized decision-making and focuses on creating environments where success can flourish.
2) Organizational Culture
Culture is the lifeblood of an organization. An agile culture is one that values flexibility, collaboration, and innovation. It's not about superficial changes but cultivating a deep-rooted environment where agile principles can thrive.
3) Organizational Structure
Just as a speedboat outmaneuvers a tanker, agile organizations require structures that enable rapid response and adaptability. Moving from silos to cross-functional teams and hierarchical to flat structures can drive agility at scale.
4) People and Engagement
Engaged employees are the engines of agility. Organizations that pivot from managing for compliance to fostering passion and initiative see significant performance boosts. A culture that values talent and creativity is key to agility.
5) Governance and Funding
Agility is stifled by rigid governance models and funding mechanisms. Embracing an approach that favors experimentation over heavy upfront planning can unlock the true potential of agile.
6) Ways of Working
While most transformations focus on working practices, it's crucial to remember that these are only one piece of the agility puzzle. Without addressing the other five enablers, any progress in working practices will be severely limited.
Why Do Agility Initiatives Fail?
A common pitfall of agility initiatives is a narrow focus on team-level practices, neglecting the systemic changes needed across the organization. The "cargo cult" mentality of mimicking agile practices without understanding the underlying principles leads to transformation efforts that are skin deep and often unsuccessful.
Taking a Holistic Approach
For real agility, we must look beyond processes and practices. We need to consider the entire ecosystem of the organization. A holistic approach to agility involves aligning leadership, culture, structure, people, governance, and working practices towards a common goal: true business agility. These elements are interconnected, and addressing one in isolation is ineffective. The transformation journey is challenging but can lead to significant rewards. For an organization to thrive in today's volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world, a holistic approach that encompasses all these aspects is essential.
Agile transformations require more than just a change in procedures; they demand a cultural and structural overhaul that permeates the entire organization. By focusing on the six enablers of business agility, companies can position themselves to navigate the complexities of today’s dynamic business environment effectively.
If you would like to dive more deeply into Agile Leadership and Business Agility, we have three great options to help you grow in that space:
1) Check out Karim’s best-selling book, The 6 Enablers of Business Agility.
2) Check out Karim’s self-paced, on-demand Agile Leadership & Business Agility course.
3) Attend Karim’s live Certified Agile Leadership (CAL) class.
Originally posted on the Agile Success Academy blog: https://www.agilesuccess.academy/pages/blog?p=unlocking-the-full-potential-of-business-agility-the-six-essential-enablers