Transforming Associations with Agility

The world is evolving very quickly, from changing economies to blending industries, resulting in tremendous competitive pressure from all angles. In the current environment, association leaders need to disrupt their organisations to survive, rethinking their products, technology, organisational talent and partnerships. They are required to promote an organisational culture that assumes changes, is comfortable with chaos and customer driven. They are expected to break the rules while bringing operational consistency. There is simply no room for rigidity!

I come at this topic from two directions in my role at Scrum Alliance®, the largest professional association of Agile practitioners worldwide. Our mission is to help others transform the world of work through improved organisational practice. At the same time, Scrum Alliance®itself is in the midst of a multi-year process of renewal and revitalisation to better align our work with the needs and desires of our members.

People over processes

We have attacked that challenge through a greater organisational commitment to Agile – an approach and mindset that values people over processes, iterative solutions with constant customer feedback, deeper cross-functional collaboration, and responsiveness to change over following a set plan.

Although Agile has gone more mainstream, it remains an idea that is easier to grasp than to practice. Scrum Alliance®just collaborated with Forbes Insights on a global survey of more than 1,000 C-level executives. Just 16 percent of these leaders said their organisations were “Agile in both strategy and execution,”although 81 percent of respondents agree on the critical importance of agility when it comes to leading a successful organisation.

So, if your organisation seems to be stuck in a time machine of pre-2000 efficiency, know that you’re not alone. The question is how do you change it?

The findings from our survey suggested a structured approach with three key elements to increase organizational agility: (1) Create a C-suite with an Agile mindset;  (2) Hire and develop the right mix of talent, and (3) Foster an Agile-friendly culture and organisational structure.

Executive-level support for Agile change is a must. Active senior management sponsorship and support is the number one motivator for undertaking a broader transformation.C-level executives can increase organisational agility by challenging ideas, sponsoring the right supporting structure and inspiring an Agile mindset across the organisation.

All about the staff

The next group responsible for supporting successful disruption is the staff. True Agile practice requires everyone in an organisation to work differently. It is important to have changing agents on board and surround those employees with a supporting culture. Many CEOs are good with developing strategies but aren’t as good with communicating across organisational layers. HR professionals become key Agile enablers as the heads of hiring and training. They evolve into a more strategic role becoming strategic business partners. They also help bring culture and communication down from the C-suite, acting as a cross-functional facilitator.

It is fine to start small; in fact, that is how most successful transformations begin. Some departments may be able to handle a total process overhaul quickly, eliminating unnecessary process and protocol, while others, like accounting, may hold on longer to older ways that are still working.

Many organisations mistakenly think that “going Agile” just means eliminating hierarchy. However, Agile is about creating the right team mindset and dynamics through practices such as Scrum and Kanban to support execution. Both Agile frameworks help organisations create empowered teams, bottom-up decision making, accountability, transparency and customer centricity.

The full version, written by Renata Lerch, Vice President of Global Marketing and Communications at Scrum Alliance, is available in the November issue of Boardroom

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