Driving Organizational Change by Embracing Agile and Facing the VUCA World
What is Agile and what is meant by the VUCA World?
It is hard not to miss the extensive press coverage for the Agile Methodology that is taking the corporate world by storm. Indeed, this innovative, flexible, and adaptable way of doing things and ordering work has been credited by leading business leaders for its value as a methodology that can help them drive organizational change and face the VUCA world.
Before launching into the discussion, it would be pertinent to define the terms that we have just mentioned. To start with, Agile Methodology is an approach to organizational processes that encompasses flexible, autonomous teams, doing everything from start to scratch where each team member is a Jack of All Trades in terms of their abilities to actualize multiple skill sets and horizontal and vertical integration of the work processes.
In addition, VUCA stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity which is the term used to describe the external business landscape that is facing all corporates and startups in the present times.
Thus, by embracing Agile, we argue that organizations are better prepared to respond to the fast changing external business landscape than others who might still be using the linear and time phased methods of working.
How Embracing Agile Leads to First Mover Advantage and Shorter Time to Market Times
Of course, one might very well ask how organizations can benefit by what is seemingly a Haphazard way of working where there are no clear boundaries between team members and their roles and everything is fungible and changeable.
The answer to this question lies in the way the Agile Methodology is defined. To start with, any organization that spends a lot of time in responding to fast changing events loses out on the First Mover Advantage or for that matter, even in the Time to Market lead times that are being compressed more and more in recent years. In other words, by doing things the same way that they were being done for decades, organizations are stuck in a Legacy Trap that does not allow them the freedom to experiment and be nimble.
Moreover, Agile operates on the principles of Systemic Change that is holistic and driven by Strategic Imperatives.
In the same manner in which the SHRM (Strategic Human Resource Management) Theory proposes a model of human resources being the main assets and the source of strategic and competitive advantage, Agile ways of working place the teams and the business units embracing it at the center of the organizational universe and which in turn, feedback to the external environment and vice versa.
Driving Organizational Change Through Agile
Having said that, one cannot really expect organizations to embrace Agile at the Drop of a Hat, indeed, the key challenge before business leaders these days is to how to transition to an agile methodology without too many Legacy issues coming in the way of the change process.
Thus, what leading management experts propose is to first freeze the current ways of doing things, introduce the agile method, and then gradually transition to the new paradigm so that the net result or the output is an organization that uses the agile method.
While like with all management theories, this looks easy on paper, the reality is that it is hard to actualize in practice.
Therefore, what we recommend is that business leaders drive the change and emphasize and hammer the point that embracing Agile is primarily a mindset change more than anything else and hence, the combination of people and the methodology taking to each other would determine the success or otherwise of the proposed change.
Examples from the Real World
Turning to the point that Agile is best suited for facing the VUCA world, let us take some examples from the real world to explain our point. Both Google and Facebook are highly responsive to the fast changing external landscape and they spend a humungous amount of time in a Symbiotic exchange with their users and other external parties.
Thus, if they need to respond to any external event, feedback, or information exchange from their environments, the relevant teams in charge cannot say that they have passed on the details to the concerned team and wash their hands of the matter.
Instead, all teams and business units must be capable of receiving, processing, acting upon, and closing the informational loop on their own.
In addition, they would need to do this quickly, with incomplete information, and with the possibility of other events overtaking their response.
In other words, what this means is that as the external events change rapidly, present ambiguities, are complex, and are volatile, agile firms are the ones that can be the answer to such imperatives.
Indeed, many business thinkers are of the view that Agile represents the natural evolution in organizational change from the Systems View, the Open Organization View, to the Agile View where fluidity of the situation demands highly unusual (for earlier era personnel) responses.
Lastly, Agile is best suited for Startups and Entrepreneurs who wish to be the first to market their game changing innovation can very well use this methodology as it is not only easier for them to embrace without Legacy Issues, but also suits their time constrained and budget constrained issues that are common to early stage startups.
To conclude, we feel that Agile is here to stay and as more and more organizations see the positives and work around the negatives, it makes sense for management graduates, engineering graduates, and for that matter, anyone curious about business trends to delve deeper and learn more about this exciting and game changing methodology.
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