This article is the first in a six-part series, detailing our approach to embedding agility and adaptability in large organisations.
The series will cover topics ranging from organising a network of high-performing teams around value and business outcomes, to funding and governance in an adaptable organisation, to mechanisms by which organisations are able to embed continuous improvement into their operations.
The insights in the series will be drawn from our experience working with companies across several industries and sectors, and are designed to apply to all kinds of organisations.
Looking back at 2020: The year that was
COVID-19 has transformed the nature of work – the type of work we do, how we do it, where we do it, and how we lead.
In New Zealand, we are fortunate enough to be making our way into the groove of the ‘next normal’. Yet nothing feels quite like normal; everything is in flux, and organisations need to provide direction and confidence when communicating the roadmap to recovery so that they can move forward into 2021 with purpose.
One outcome of the lockdowns we experienced this year was a head-first dive into the ‘virtual’ deep end, made by a generationally diverse workforce against the backdrop of an uncertain economic climate – one which many have known for their entire careers. Organisations were forced into the formidable challenge of reimagining how they deliver work in a virtual environment without the luxury of testing or incremental shifts.
Adaptability through necessity
The past year has pushed organisations to demonstrate their ability to change in ways that took days rather than years to execute. However, many of the changes have been forced upon these organisations as there was no choice but to act – and they were executed by putting rulebooks aside in order to achieve the required speed.
We have seen these changes first-hand through working with a large organisation throughout the past year. Their enterprise-wide ways of working transformation was put on pause when COVID-19 first hit. The focus shifted to achieving immediate business outcomes through standing up two business-critical agile teams composed of multi-disciplinary individuals from around the organisation.
With the newly-enhanced focus on servant leadership and empowerment, these teams were able to deliver competitive customer propositions in a matter of weeks – not months – thereby relieving some of their short-term commercial pressures.
When we look to the market, however, existing processes and structures such as functional reporting lines, performance management and incentives, risk, and portfolio management have not been adjusted to support the changes from the past year.
Looking forward, decisions need to be made with both speed and control. Creating the right environment to make informed decisions on where the organisation invests its scarce money and talent, and how it executes on these decisions, will be a key differentiator as we move into 2021.
Organising a network of high-performing teams to drive systemic adaptability
In order to embed adaptability into the DNA of an organisation, it is necessary to align teams to a specific, tangible goal – such as customer experiences, or discrete parts of the value chain.
A key component in this process is determining where in the organisation the ‘responsive’ adaptable teams should sit. Decisions which can be decentralised and may incur a high cost of delay (such as responding to changing customer needs) should sit with an adaptable ‘team of teams’ which is ultimately as close as possible to the customer. On the other hand, infrastructure-heavy units (such as technology platforms) may function better as a foundation which sits across each of the adaptive teams, ensuring stability where it is needed.
The following is an illustrative example of how this may work:
The next few articles in this series will explore the intricacies of organising these teams into a functional unit, achieving alignment of outcomes and work.
For more information on how we can transform your organisation for the future, click here.
Jane Fitzgerald, Partner, Enterprise Agility Lead
Jane is a Partner in our Operations Transformation portfolio, specialising in operating model transformation. Jane is passionate about helping organisations optimise the way they deliver on their purpose, and has assisted a variety of local clients in transforming their operating models to improve customer experience and foster business growth. Jane views agility, lean, and human-centred design as critical tools to help organisations thrive in new ways of working.
Riley Cahill, Analyst, Enterprise Agility
Riley is an Analyst in the Enterprise Agility and Operations Transformation portfolios, with experience supporting the delivery of agile transformations across a variety of sectors. With a background in finance, Riley specialises in the alignment of funding to adaptable outcomes.