“Good management processes support strategy and capability of execution: agile management processes help change capabilities and other organizational features quickly when change is necessary.” – Christopher Worley, Thomas Williams and Edward Lawler Ill.
By implementing the right management process, companies have always been able to satisfy their customers. However, the fast-changing business environments they currently compete in demands excellent management processes. The latter can be achieved by integrating agility and flexibility into their strategy. Agile management processes thus help organizations make and adapt for changes in the long run, enabling for every project to succeed.
1. Agile management processes: a new buzzword
Every company now talks about the “Agile methodologies” and strategists praise the importance of working with agility and resilience. But what exactly is “Agility” and why has it entered our lexicon?
“Agility” can be defined as “an organization’s capacity to make effective, sustained but also timely changes in order to achieve superior performance”. Repeatability represents one of its most essential features, as companies constantly need to adjust to all the changing circumstances (e.g. by launching new products, building new capabilities, etc.). This process however requires specific management processes in order to support change in the long-term.
Four routines are required to obtain organisational agility:
- A strategizing routine: it helps establish both the purpose and the market position of any organisation along with challenging the status quo;
- A perceiving routine: it helps connect companies with their immediate external environment to understand relevant undergoing shifts;
- A testing routine: it helps companies experiment with new ideas to continuously learn;
- An implementing routine: it helps facilitate daily changes regarding products, structures or systems but it also helps developing new business models and strategies.
On the one hand, it has to be pointed out that these four routines also need to be combined with good management processes, as only the latter will make agility possible. Some of these processes will have to be specifically designed for change in order to support the execution of business models and strategies. On the other hand, some of these management processes will also need to be flexible and fast (cfr. Point 3) to keep the organization going and to prevent rigidity from setting in.
2. 5 steps to integrate agility and flexibility
5 different steps are necessary to integrate agility and flexibility for management processes:
- Planning for flexibility: planning a project ahead from A to Z enables companies to accommodate late changes. The most crucial step is to adopt clear change-control processes to enable each team member to understand the implications of every change;
- Creating thinking teams: it is crucial to only select team members whose skills match the project needs;
- Maintaining a view of every activity: holding daily meetings enables companies to maintain visibility of every undergoing activity;
- Dividing the work into small chunks: as managers cannot expect change to happen overnight, it is crucial to divide every project into smaller chunks allowing thus to make incremental progress in order to efficiently manage change;
Considering flexible contracting: contractual conditions seem necessary to pin down project deliverables.
3. The need for flexibility and speed
It is well known that several sectors lack the ability to adapt flexible methodologies in order to make major changes (e.g. the public sector or the construction industry). Project management constantly moves towards ever leaner and agile processes. It is therefore crucial for managers to demonstrate their flexible thinking.
“Flexibility” is the ability to effectively execute operations without having to follow rigid steps. A clear understanding of the management processes’ purpose and freedom to adapt is required to implement flexibility. It will enable to reduce loads of problems (e.g. increased costs, missed deadlines) thanks to a constant collaboration between team members.
It has to be emphasized that good management processes will help support companies’ strategies, while agile management processes will favour changes in capabilities when necessary. However, not all management processes need to be crafted for change, and thus, according to both flexibility and speed.
As a result, managers who taking a flexible approach will have to develop their projects from the initial project brief but will also need to constantly communicate with their clients in order to make the necessary changes.
4. A case study: PayPal
Along with Netflix or Brioche Pasquier, many companies have decided to embark on the Agile journey: Facebook, Google, CA Technologies or PayPal. Ben Cornelius from PayPal acknowledged how the banking and financial industries have to constantly provide quick answers in order to meet all the changing regulations. He explained how Agile methods helped him achieve that.
In an Agile environment, all teams (from the content development team to product development) must collaborate with each other. They have to work closely together throughout various cycles of planning, development and in response to feedbacks. He therefore acknowledged the importance of staying flexible along with being responsible for emphasising each team’s own strengths.
“Agile contains the idea that we interact with our stakeholders frequently, in our case daily … Getting feedback in a two-week iteration rather than a few weeks after a release that was in development for six months makes a significant difference. When teams put months into something and you find out it does not meet the user’s needs/desires, a company may ship it anyway, meaning that a feature people wanted is not shipping, and a feature with limited value is [shipping instead]. The sunk costs are high, so the company delivers. Their costs continue as they support and maintain that product rather than something that would have been higher value.” (Source: http://contentmarketinginstitute.com)
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