Transparency – the foundation of Agile Organisations

Last month we considered the hallmarks and the benefits of an agile organisation. So, the obvious next question is how do we get there? How can we, as strategic thinkers and managers, move our teams and our entire organisations to that structure so that we are better able to respond to changes in our macro-environment?

Although many organisations see the need for this shift, actually completing the required shift is not easy. A recent McKinsey survey found that three quarters of responding organisations saw organisational agility as a top three priority, and 37% of respondents said they were in the implementation phase of a company-wide agile transformation. Only 4% reported having completed such transformations.

So, where do we start?

There is another dynamic trait of agile organisations, a trait that applies to all the trademarks we discussed last month – information transparency.

This trait underpins all others. It requires that all employees have access to all information – operational, financial and customer information – are that they’re able to share their ideas and insights frictionlessly across the organization. This means engaged employees, having conversations across teams and breaking down silos.

Or, as Julie Sweet, CEO of Accenture says, “We believe that transparency is needed to create trust, and it’s also needed to create a dialogue.”

Let’s review how that applies to the trademarks we identified last month:

Use the North Star strategy as a guide, not to control. Doing this creates a shared purpose among your people, and a personal and emotional investment in the organisation’s success.  Channeling that shared purpose into a strategic direction requires close and ongoing collaboration.

Build a culture of performance that goes across, not just top-down. While this is implicit in the “network of empowered teams”, it does require an end-to-end, customer centred view of performance. It requires constant feedback from multiple sources – customer, internal and external. And perhaps most importantly, it requires adjustment and action based on that feedback.

Fix your decision-making. We already identified the cohesive community we need, and the entrepreneurial people that thrive in the agile organisation. Trusting your people entails real trust, and delegating decisions means trusting the outcomes.

Invert the pyramid. This idea refers to the shape of a typical hierarchical organization: the CEO sits at the top and, as you go down the ladder, each management layer gets larger. As a result, responsibility shifts from deciding, directing, thinking and making choices to doing, supporting, enabling and executing the directives of those at the bottom. It is the front line where the real work is done, so put the front line at the top and the CEO is at the bottom.

At Factor10 we are obsessed with managing change and creating more agile companies. We have a panel of experienced and internationally accredited psychologists, leadership experts and coaches who deliver bespoke, experiential leadership immersions and deep coaching dialogues that will assist in making your organisation better able to respond to a changing environment.

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