The Five Elements of Agile Companies (Part I of III)

· insights

New ways of working for a new era of work or how to build true agility in organizations? - Part I of III

How to quickly create agility in your organization and use it to get out of the crisis? What are the new ways of working we need to adopt now for the new era? How could these new ways of working help us be competitive in the new era? These are the questions on our minds right now at launchlabs Sofia and in this article we want to share our knowhow gathered in the last 7 years through working with multiple organizations to implement agile ways of working.

There are multiple factors impacting companies in the current situation from the type of industry they are in and the national governance under which they operate to the reserves they have and the size and type of their market they have. And while these factors impact the outcome, one thing we’ve noticed is that agile organizations act quicker, take smarter decisions and are generally calmer in these turbulent times.

There is no single definition of new ways of working, but there are certainly elements that we at launchlabs Sofia evaluate and focus on when a CEO comes to us and says “I want my organization to be more agile/adaptive/innovative//[fill in the gap].” Yes, this is very often how it starts – from the top.

/ leadership

The first element of agility in organizations is leadership – do we have leaders who suggest directions we want to explore or tell us exactly what the outcome should be? Do we have leaders that inspire us to explore the different directions or give us pre-defined paths we should strictly follow? For an organization to be agile and innovative, we need leadership who has adopted completely new ways of working – we need leaders who give true exploration tickets to their teams i.e. leaders who give unconditional trust and resources to their teams to explore. To steer the exploration, such leadership also equips the organization with coaches and ambassadors at management and operational positions that help the teams in any way possible – from providing direction and inspiration, to offering new tools and fighting bureaucracy in the organization in order to accelerate projects and achieve innovative results.

/ project methodology 

The second element is the project management methodology. In very simplistic terms in order to get better results quicker, projects should be run as a sequence of sprints and should be staffed with diverse team members. The goal of the sprints is to understand the client’s needs, build the solution iteratively and collect feedback on every iteration. The way to achieve this goal is to undergo practical project-based training for key teams in the organization. They need to be at ease with all the needed tools for doing quick research, rapid prototyping, team brainstorming, stakeholders mapping, etc. Such powerful instruments could be found in methodologies like design thinking, service design and scrum. The question here is not whether we should replace the linear project methodology with a more agile iterative way of working and train people in it. The question and the real work is how are internal processes like staffing, reporting, appraisal, procurement and others adjusted to support this way of working?

/ team rituals

The rituals are very important and often overlooked aspect of new ways of working, these rituals could be operational – like daily stand-ups or project retrospectives, but they could also be purely social in order to network and build trust in the team or among teams, management and other stakeholders. The fact is that agile organizations use a richer portfolio of rituals – that allow the organization to self heal and get incrementally, but steadily better.

/ space

It is important for teams to have a dedicated “war room” – this is the space, in which they could focus on the work without being disturbed. This space has to be both flexible, so that teams can rearrange it according to their daily needs, and inspirational, especially if the project end result has to be innovative. Apart from the war room, an agile space provides a balance between individual spaces – personal desks, home office, isolation pods, etc. and social spaces where informal and serendipitous contact could happen. And working from home means we have to recreate this online.

/ platforms 

Platforms like Slack, Jira, Trello, Zoom, Teams, etc. are important to new ways of working. They provide transparency of communication and tasks, and ensure accountability in the team. They are especially important in the current situation where almost everyone works from home and teams have become virtual. However, agility doesn’t come simply from buying a license for these platforms. To make real use of them, organizations need to integrate these platforms with the leadership practices, the project methodology, the team rituals and the physical space used.

Adopting new ways of working in all five dimensions is the only sustainable way for organizations to get out of the crisis and be ready for the inevitable next Business as Unusual situation. At launchlabs Sofia we do just that – we guide companies through business redesign and make them ready for the business as unusual. We provide team training, leadership support and coaching on real sprints, as well as workspace design. We have worked with hundreds of organizations around the world to help them redesign their businesses into more agile, creative and successful organizations. Interested? Join us for an hour of free consultation here.

This article is part of a trilogy on New ways of working written by launchlabs Sofia specifically for BAPM and their upcoming online conference Agile HR. In part I we define what is actually new ways of working? In part II we look at how new ways of working help organizations adapt and innovate and in part III we give easy tips and tricks on how to do it.