Taking the Journey: Successfully Transforming Into an Agile Organization

  • With the article The Journey to an Agile Organization, McKinsey takes a look at what is needed to achieve an agile transformation.
  • There are numerous paths to agility, but virtually all transformations follow a common thread.
  • Agile transformations touch 5 facets of an organization, including its technology.
  • Companies like JourneyApps, that fulfill the technology needs described by McKinsey, enable traditional organizations to transform into agile organizations.

Introduction

More and more organizations are realizing the value of organizational agility. Even established companies are implementing strategies to become more agile, understanding that in a world of ever-changing technology, market demands and competition, being agile gives a clear competitive edge. McKinsey distinguishes between traditional and agile organizations as follows: Traditional organizations are built around a static, siloed, structural hierarchy, while agile organizations can be characterized as a network of teams operating in rapid learning and decision-making cycles.

Traditional organizations make decisions from the top down, with decision rights flowing down the hierarchy. Conversely, agile organizations instill a common purpose and use new data to give decision rights to the teams closest to the information.

Ideally, an agile organization will combine velocity and adaptability with stability and efficiency. In their article The Journey to an Agile Organization, McKinsey provides a guide to transforming a company to an agile organization. We explored some of their ideas — analyzing some of the aspects of an agile organization, and looked at how companies such as JourneyApps can help companies achieve agility.

The Journey to an Agile Organization

The Journey to an Agile Organization argues that there are many different paths to enterprise agility. Some organizations use an agile operating model from their inception. Other organizations, McKinsey believes, follow three types of journeys to becoming agile. These are:

  1. All-in: This involves an organization-wide commitment to go agile and a series of waves of agile transformation;
  2. Step-wise: which entails a systematic and more discreet approach; and
  3. Emergent: which is basically a bottom-up approach.

Companies that are agile from their inception are commonly found in the tech industry, with rarer examples in other industries. Therefore, for most organizations to become agile, they must go through a transformation. These transformations vary in scope, approach and pace, but all contain a common set of elements, which are depicted below.

image

Successful transformations start with an effort to aspire, design, and pilot the new agile operating model. These elements can occur in any order, and often happen in parallel. Secondly, the impetus to scale and improve involves increasing the number of agile areas within the business. Organizations can iterate among these stages as they roll out agility across more and more of their component parts.

Aspire, blueprint and pilot

McKinsey summarizes these concepts as follows:

“Most transformations start with building the top team’s understanding and aspirations, creating a blueprint to identify how agility will add value, and learning through agile pilots. These three elements inform one another and often overlap.”

Top-team aspiration: Successful agile transformations require aspirational and aligned leadership at the top of the organization. There needs to be a shared desire to transform the company.

Blueprint: The blueprint provides a clear vision and design for a new operating model. The image below summarizes the development of this blueprint.

image

Agile pilots: The purpose of a pilot is to demonstrate the value of agile ways of working through quantifiable business outcomes. At first, pilots may be limited to individual teams, but most pilots involve multiple teams to test the broader elements of enterprise agility. Skepticism among executives can be alleviated by employees having verifiable success through agile working.

Scale and improve

Many agile transformations fail when attempting to scale up from a few pilots. Scaling up requires an iterative mindset from company leadership, where learning is rapidly incorporated in the scale-up plan.

Agile cell deployment and support: An organization cannot pilot its way to enterprise agility. Companies need to design and roll out agile units in waves, including moving people to new roles.

Backbone transformation: Processes such as how decisions get made, how people, budgets, and capital get deployed and how risk gets managed, need to be transformed.

Capability accelerator: Using training and by bringing in new talent, companies need to build the capabilities required to sustain this new agile reality.

The 5 facets touched by agile transformation

McKinsey posits that there are 4 facets of an organization that are impacted by a comprehensive agile transformation. These are people, process, strategy, structure and technology. These are depicted in the image below.

image

Areas such as the reporting structure, culture, team processes and strategy development will all be greatly impacted by agile transformation, but for a moment, let’s focus on the technology aspect — and how a company such as JourneyApps can play a role in enabling the transformation to a fully agile organization.

McKinsey mentions four aspects of technology that need to receive focus during an agile transformation. These are: supporting systems and tools, architecture evolution, delivery pipeline and IT infrastructure and operations.

Supporting systems and tools

The organization has to ensure that it has the correct tools to support an agile way of working. This involves having the digital solutions in place to drive the organization toward digital and agile transformation. Agility means being in a position to implement change, and tools that enable this change, quickly. Having IT teams use low-code development platforms greatly reduces the time it takes to build and deploy business apps throughout the organization. Companies such as JourneyApps provide a platform on which digital solutions can be built by smaller teams, in a shorter time frame, helping drive agility.

Architecture evolution

Companies need to enable the design and evolution of enterprise architecture based on requirements. Software requirements may change quickly and regularly within an agile organization. With an inherently highly adaptable cloud-native architecture, and its ability to quickly iterate on complex solutions, JourneyApps is well-placed to help companies in this regard.

Delivery pipeline

Companies need to automate their testing and integration processes to enable fast and continuous delivery. Being in a position to continuously deliver solutions quickly puts companies ahead of their competition in achieving digital and agile transformation. Software providers such as JourneyApps enable companies to maximize the speed of their delivery pipelines — through a vertically integrated full-stack and one-click deploy of changes to production.

IT infrastructure and operations

It is important for organizations to ensure that they have the appropriate IT infrastructure and operations to support rapid changes. To this end, JourneyApps provides a complete set of integrated tools to enable IT organizations to manage the increasing number of digital business apps that will be developed, with minimal effort.

In Conclusion

The article The Journey to an Agile Organization explores the process of agile transformation for traditional companies. While each organization will experience the process differently, there are common threads to a successful transformation. This includes every organization requiring leadership aspiration, a transformation blueprint, and piloting agility projects. Each organization also needs to ensure that they scale appropriately and that they allow themselves to improve in waves. Lastly, there are 5 facets of each organization that is affected by agile transformation — one of these being technology. JourneyApps is well-poised to act as a technology enabler for companies hoping to achieve agility transformation.


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