An Agile Operating Model for the New Normal

Agile organisations are developed to be responsive, resilient, and adaptable to change. Accordingly, agility is particularly important for traditional companies with manual paper-based processes undertaking the journey towards digitization in the ‘new normal’. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Center for Information Systems Research (CISR) notes that for these companies, ‘what made them successful in the past is not going to make them successful going forward’. The need to prioritize agile working practices and digital solutions has greatly amplified throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Agility has emerged as the bridge between ‘survive’ and ‘thrive’ - agile, digitized organisations are considerably better equipped to respond to changing corporate and economic environments. These organisations are responsive, rather than reactive - actively shaping their working-culture and taking proactive initiatives to boost risk-taking and collaboration amongst their teams.

 

GeoPal supports agile operational practices in the construction & utilities industries, through facilitating the implementation of digital transformation. Both industries have been moving quickly towards digitization for the last number of years, with profound implications for the sectors - post pandemic and beyond. Digital solutions are essential to agility and continuity, allowing for the insertion of fundamental agile practices in a time of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity (VUCA). According to IDC, 85% of enterprise leaders say they have 2 years to implement a digital transformation strategy or they’ll fall behind their competitors and suffer financially.

Quintessentially, ensuring your organisation is agile - responsive, resilient and adaptable is now more important than ever before. Organisations that value agile practices are perfectly suited to respond to volatile and unexpected environmental shifts, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. McKinsey notes that organisations with agility embedded in their operating models have managed the impact of the pandemic markedly better than their peers. The time for agility in your organisation is now.

The importance of the core values of Agile development are now considerably more relevant than before the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent fallout. The values act as guardrails, equipping organisations with the resilience to navigate the current climate, whilst setting the stage for recovery, transformation and growth in the new normal.

The four core values of Agile as stated by the Agile Manifesto are:

 

                                             

These values, along with key changes in business models, new ways of working and digital culture will characterise success in the new normal. In short, prioritizing people and establishing a clear strategy with structured governance is essential to lead workforces effectively. Below we examine some elements of successful responses to volatility as demonstrated by agile organisations.

McKinsey notes that the elements of a successful agile response to changing environments are demonstrated on both micro (team-based) and macro (enterprise) levels. We now take a look at some of the characteristics of successful agile responses to VUCA.

 

                                                     

Elements of Successful Response:

Team-level elements

 

Prioritization of Tasks: The ability to restructure an evolving list of organisational requirements, or backlog, allows teams to prioritize and focus on changing customer needs. In an interview with McKinsey, the president of pharmaceutical giant MSD, stated; ‘Even before COVID-19, we were bad at prioritizing, and it’s still a challenge. We should have put more focus on it. Then we would have been in a better position to cope with the shock.’

Transparency: Agile teams practice transparent communication and maintain regular social interactions. Regular ‘pulse-checks’ allow for effective problem solving and progress tracking.

Remote Set-up: Successful teams practiced foundational agile processes before the pandemic, allowing for the seamless continuity of work under lockdown. Agile teams are experienced users of digital remote collaboration tools. The creation of a virtual co-location is an important element in constructing a successful remote set-up. Remote working allows organisations to be virtually co-located, uniting geographically distanced teams in a cohesive virtual space and improving collaboration.

Digital Culture: Successful agile teams adopt a digital culture. 80% of digitally maturing organisations have engaged in initiatives to increase risk-taking, agility, and team collaboration. This compares to just 23% of organisations at earlier stages of digital maturity (Digital Marketing Institute).

Enterprise Level Elements

 

Empowering Cross Functionality: Leadership in agile organizations seek to empower small teams with independence and resources whilst retaining overall accountability. Empowering cross-functional teams to mobilize and make decisions is an essential element of an agile response.

Structured Governance: Establishing an organisation-wide process of structured governance to revise priorities, assist companies to realign and implement effective response strategies. Accenture note that establishing clear governance structures minimizes the risk of developing ‘structural bloat’ - which causes delayed reactions to changing market conditions.

Digitization: Digital solutions are the key to effective agile responses.  Deloitte notes that with the advent of Industry 5.0, digital ways of working (telecommuting, virtual gatherings, agile IT and cyber security) that rely heavily on technology and virtual environment enablement will characterise the working culture in the new normal.

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