The DNA of a true agile organization

Lately, I see some companies move to true ‘agile enterprises’. I’ve always been a firm believer of empowerment and self management. To become a true agile organization (as opposed to an organization that does some agile in some projects), we need those two ingredients. An enterprise needs to reinvent its DNA. 

To reinvent the DNA, almost everything needs to ‘go’:

Leadership: leaders need to ‘let go’. They need to let go of their power and their idea of status. They need to move their power to the people in their teams. And sometimes they even need to make themself redundant, finding a new role or leaving. 

Culture: everyone needs to start thinking differently. People need to ‘own’ their work. They need to feel part of the team they work in and its mission. We need to let go of our focus on our own priorities and wallet. 

Structure: we need to let go of the hierarchical organogram. Silos and functional departments are gone. And then we need to reinvent the new structure. In true agile organizations, this reinventing happens by the team with leaders as facilitators. Not top down. People reshape their teams, what the teams work on and their own roles in it. 

Performance systems: traditional kpi’s need to go. Kpi’s focus people on ‘me’. We want ‘us’. Work happens in teams, so performance, outcomes, impact has to be measured on the team level. And rewards have to be linked to that. 

Goal setting: top down goal setting has to go. Leaders can give direction. But the teams decide what to do and how to get there. Leaders can facilitate this discussion. Teams that set their own goals, ‘own’ them. 

A true agile organization also understands that all of the reinventing has to be done by the team. If we lay out structure, culture and performance systems top-down, we haven’t accomplished all  that Agile encompasses. I have seen very few companies that understand this. And it requires audacity. It requires top management that dares to let go all of the above. And then trust that their people will reshape the DNA. 

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