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Change Management

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Dietmar Bodingbauer
Source: www.fotolia.de

The world has become flatter, faster and more complex. Organizations need to be more agile to adapt to unpredictable changes. We need to get rid of some management fundamentals because they no longer work. Becoming an agile organization is about introducing new key-principles in the right places.

The old tools are no longer sharp enough

How is management reacting to new business environment? We are using the same instruments we acquired in the 20th century: We improve planning and controlling, we further boost efficiency and streamline structures, we foster competitiveness between units and, lastly, we use the new information technologies to involve management more closely in operational work, thereby centralizing decision-making power. But how do we make good and fast decisions without really knowing the situation »out there«?

How do we become (more) agile?

While there is no ultimate recipe for the agile organization, managers should consider the following fundamentals: 

1.     Radical transparency and openness

In organizations, only those on the »frontline« (in Sales, Service, Production) commonly have the necessary know-how to make operational decisions. However, what they lack is the understanding of the broader context, which is typically reserved for management. Agile organizations resolve this situation by installing radical transparency, so that people on the »frontline« can make good and fast decisions.

2.     Lateral connectivity and trust

Agile organizations foster co-operation between units by building linkages between them. This includes people rotating between units, working in flexible and cross-functional teams, placing teams closely together, building »liaison« functions, etc., therefore making it easy for people to co-operate, decide and act quickly.

3.     A culture of trying out

Long and expensive development and release processes are obstacles for agile organizations. Instead, they follow an approach of trying out ideas quickly (»prototyping«), with short feedback and adaptation loops, which speeds up innovation.

4.     Focus on purpose and opportunities

Members of agile organizations are collectively guided by an inspiring purpose and vision, as well as some fundamental principles and a common understanding of the business opportunities they want to pursue. This ensures that the organization is moving in the right direction.

5.     A new role for management

In more agile organizations management has a different role. It focuses on organizing communication, access to information, lateral networking and a common purpose. The new motto is: »eyes on – hands off« – to have an eye on what is going on without being involved in all the operational details.

Becoming more agile is a change-process

Agile organizations are based on autonomy and self-responsibility. But it will not work to simply »let go of« the authority and power from the management without creating the necessary frame and conditions in the organization as well as a broad understanding and the necessary skills of the people. Becoming more agile is a step-by-step change process of implementing the elements described above.

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