We are in the midst of a transformation. The paradigms in which businesses and leaders have operated for the past four decades are being dismantled and giving way to a new and more effective mode of operating: Agile. Let’s take a look at why Agile principles work so well:
1. People hate secrets.
What happens in the old structure of hierarchies and siloes is a lot of secrecy, “need to know”, politics, etc. It’s common for leaders to control information and communicate up only what they think people want to hear rather than what they actually need to hear. Communication breaks down between siloes and layers and people are left suspicious instead of trusting.
Radical transparency is a cornerstone of Agile organizations. People naturally want to know what’s actually happening – whether good or bad. They want to know how their contributions add or subtract to the success of the company and the impact on customers. They want to know exactly why the changes in the organization are occurring and why that matters to the company purpose. Leaders who have the courage to practice radical transparency create an environment of trust. In this environment, people are willing to give their best efforts, stay at the company, and the pace of innovation and change glide faster (imagine an air-hockey puck).
2. People hate being told what to do and how to do it.
The old model is left over from a business transformation that occurred 100 years ago: the industrial revolution. In his widely accepted 1911 book “The Principles of Scientific Management”, Fredrick Taylor outlines how to efficiently run assembly lines. One of the underpinnings was his belief that people fall into two categories – managers, who are smart and can plan processes, and workers, who are stupid and can only handle performing one discrete task on the assembly line. This thinking was widely accepted and spawned the industrial age. Unfortunately, it is no longer relevant to today’s world because people are no longer willing to be treated like they’re too dumb to think for themselves and will leave the organization.
Small self-organized cross-functional teams is a key component of agile organizational structure that flies in the face of hierarchies. They allow employees the autonomy and freedom to design their own solutions without hindrance from management. Giving people this autonomy and creative liberty leads to significantly higher levels of engagement, rapid innovation, and superior quality output.
3. People hate Red Tape.
Establishing bureaucracy and process has been the favorite method of companies achieving standardization and control across large enterprises. On the surface it makes sense, and companies need to maintain a small amount. However, it kills the human spirit the same way sitting in traffic leads to immense frustration. People need to move freely and it leads to nimble organizations vs slow-moving clunky ones.
Eliminating bureaucracy is a key component of Agile leaders. Savvy companies empower their employees who are on the frontlines directly engaging with customers to remove roadblocks. These are the people who know exactly what customers want and giving them the authority to rapidly innovate and offer solutions will lead to delighted customers and fulfilled employees.
4. People hate being blamed.
How often do you hear people point to other parts of the organization for why they haven’t met their goals? “If supply chain would just do their job”, “I can’t get anything done because of…” and on it goes. When accountability is unclear then it creates an environment of finger-pointing.
Crystal clear accountability at the level of flat teams is another Agile principle. Team members are able to hold each other accountable which always works more effectively than top down accountability. This clarity leads to organizations being able to operate more efficiently and effectively.
5. People hate being taken advantage of.
For decades, companies have focused on shareholder value as the primary measure of their success. This leads to short-sighted decision-making for quarterly results, an unwillingness to invest in R&D without immediate ROI (killing innovation), and an overall ethos of extracting value from employees rather than creating value for customers. Simply said, companies have focused on the numbers, not people. There’s a major power shift that has occurred in which the customer is more empowered than ever before. Another trend is employees no longer binding themselves to organizations for long periods. Employees will always be more engaged when the company is about creating value for customers and serving them. This is because human beings perform at their best when in service of a higher purpose, which in Agile is to delight the customer.
In summary, Agile companies unlock the human spirit and maximize its creativity and effort. This is because they operate with human nature instead of against it.
How Agile is your organization?
What are some Agile companies you admire?
Please send me your comments, would love to hear from you.
For more information on how to become an Agile Leader, Agile Team or Agile Organization, please contact John T. Griffith at firstname.lastname@example.org or 978.257.3009.
About the Author: John Griffith
About MCG Partners
MCG Partners a woman-owned, Greater Boston-based consultancy specializing in executive coaching, leadership development, talent management, and organizational development solutions. We help businesses optimize success through the entire management life-cycle. MCG Partners is also a Predictive Index® (PI®) certified partner.