Why Take an Agile Approach to Organization Design?

  |  June 6, 2018

Agile Organization Design

Agile frameworks are gaining popularity as an alternative to more traditional product development and project management practices. As they rise in popularity and demonstrate increases in productivity and success, many executives are asking themselves how they can use Agile organization design and organizational transformation strategies to improve their businesses.

Agile is still very much in its infancy. Many business functions and areas have yet to experiment with it and determine its usefulness or applicability. While the software industry has used Agile for more than a decade, it remains far from a mainstream framework for all business areas and companies. For executives, this provides great opportunities to differentiate their business through Agile assuming the work fits Agile principles.  I believe Agile is a good fit for the work of organization design.

AlignOrg Solutions has been using Agile principles in our organization design practice for the past 25 years. Of course, when we started we didn’t call them Agile principles. However, as Agile has emerged and grown in acceptance, we quickly saw correlations between Agile and organization design done the “AlignOrg” way.

Why Agile?

On the surface, many of our Agile organization design practices do not look like their software or product development counterparts, yet they still run parallel and in-line with the principles of Agile and coincide with the original Agile Manifesto.

We believe adherence to these principles is one of the many things that has differentiated our approach to organization design.  And, it is why we believe that more and more organizations should consider ways to incorporate Agile principles into how they work.

Imagine the benefits for companies if they could:

  • Markedly improve productivity and speed of decision making
  • Unleash the creative energy of their talent
  • Accelerate the speed of implementation (and thus reduce the time to results)

These benefits won’t come easily, but by understanding Agile principles and good organization design practices, executives can lead their organizations on a journey to achieve extraordinary organization transformation results.

Path to the Future

As markets continue to change at a rapid pace, Agile principles provide executives with flexible solutions that many call the path to the future. Speaking to those reluctant to adopt Agile principles, Jeff Sutherland is famous for saying, “Change or die.” With increasing digital transformation, globalization, a tightening regulatory climate, heightened consumer advocacy, constant threats from new start-ups, killer apps, and an increase in market change, Sutherland may not be far off.

Interestingly, Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, said something similar to his employees in his annual letter:

Day 2 companies [those companies that are less differentiated and “cutting edge”] make high-quality decisions, but they make high-quality decisions slowly. To keep the energy and dynamism of Day 1 [highly differentiated companies on the cutting edge], you have to somehow make high-quality, high-velocity decisions. Easy for start-ups and very challenging for large organizations.

Indeed, highly differentiated companies that will likely succeed in today’s market are those that are fast, dynamic, customer centric, and flexible – one could say, they are Agile.

Unleash the Benefits of Agile

Agile isn’t a slogan or poster on the wall. It is a new way of working that fundamentally changes how work is organized, approached, resourced, and delivered. While Agile may have its roots in software and product development, there are applications in other areas.

Our 25 years using Agile principles in organization design have produced, what we feel, are amazing results that help companies change rather than die. We have seen companies complete organization transformations faster than they ever thought possible, quickly respond to market changes, and consistently produce differentiated business models that are tailored to customer needs.  When you plan your next organization transformation strategy, think about how you will embed Agile principles into your organization, culture, and ways of working and who you will partner with that can work in a way that unleashes the benefits of Agile organization design.