Create deep and enduring transformation
Leaders won’t achieve the speed and agility they need unless they foster a culture that enables the organization to perform well across functions and business units, embrace risk, and focus obsessively on customers.
A CULTURE THAT PROMOTES AGILITY
Old habits and an unreceptive culture are the dominant barriers to effective change. Studies show that these obstacles adversely impact economic performance, and they are the top reasons for the alarming failure rate of business transformation efforts.
In today’s fast-paced, highly competitive digital world, solving these cultural issues is no longer an option. This is well understood by executives, as “transforming culture and ways of working” is seen as by far the biggest challenge they face.
Traditional approaches to change management either side-step culture change altogether or treat it as distinct from structural reorganization, role redesign, and new technology implementation. “People change” is implemented as an additional workstream, usually with one-time training, a communication strategy, and a “what’s in it for me” storyline.
The track record of current change management models is abysmal—as they are divorced from the day-to-day reality of people’s work and their tribal relationships. Because habits are hard to break, new mindsets and behaviors must be stitched into the fabric of how real work gets done—with sustained, in-the-moment interventions to embed them.
The Enterprise Agility model has a strong advantage in this regard; when agile work practices are implemented fully, they create mechanisms for consistent reflection and learning. For example, regular retrospective meetings hold teams accountable for unmet goals, and help them plan improvements in their work process. Agile practices also leverage core human motivators to increase engagement: continuous feedback from customers heightens a sense of purpose, freedom in decision-making gives people autonomy, and short cycles of value creation yield frequent, tangible, and impactful results.
However, it shouldn’t be assumed that simply deploying agile practices will produce the desired changes. Without training and regular coaching, especially in the early stages, practices may not be executed properly, and organizations may not receive the full value of Enterprise Agility. For example, daily standup meetings can easily devolve into bland update sessions, instead of serving the critical alignment and collaborative problem-solving role they are intended to play.
We support organizations through a successful agile transformation, using enterprise and team coaching, paired with strong mechanisms that weave new practices, mindsets, and behaviors into mutually reinforcing culture change.
HOW WE HELP
Leaders inspire the culture shift
Functional and departmental silos, fear of taking risks, and lack of customer focus continue to plague efforts to improve agility. Leaders must take bold and visible action to confront these challenges and set the tone for their people to follow.
Risk aversion is fundamental to human behavior. It is deeply programmed into our survival instincts. In the face of uncertainty or fear of failure, it leads to underinvestment in strategic opportunities and sluggish responses to quick-changing customer needs and market dynamics.
As customers’ needs and preferences change at a heightened pace, anything short of obsessive focus will lead to divergence between consumer choices and a company’s product and service offer. Any gap in customer understanding will confound employees’ ability to mobilize around integrated touchpoints, journeys, and consistent experiences.
And when an organization is characterized by silos, responses to rapidly evolving competitive forces are often too narrow, with key signals missed or acted upon too slowly, simply because they were seen by the wrong part of the company.
Risk aversion, siloed thinking, and internal focus are deeply ingrained in organizational culture. Experience clearly demonstrates that if executives wait for cultures to change organically, it will move too slowly, or not happen at all. To overcome organizational inertia, leaders must make deliberate efforts to shift their culture to be more responsive to customers, more willing to take risks, and better connected across the organization.
Shifting organizational culture first requires senior leaders themselves to develop new mindsets and behaviors that embody Enterprise Agility. It is critical that this is an authentic commitment and transformation: leaders need to “walk the talk” and begin personally behaving in different ways. One of the greatest influences on an organization’s culture is the demonstrated behavior of its collective leadership.
One example is to embed a mindset of calculated risk-taking and innovation through all ranks of the enterprise. This can be achieved by adopting a venture capital-style approach to prioritization, funding, and decision making.
This transition can be challenging for individual executives and leadership teams. It involves
breaking the status quo of hierarchical decision making, shifting attention from optimizing to innovating, and celebrating risk-taking and learning from failure.
To help leadership teams make this transition safely, we offer programs that provide a deep and intuitive understanding of what it takes to successfully implement Enterprise Agility, as well as top team and leadership coaching.
Build change into work and core relationships
Neither talk of change nor classroom training perceptibly moves the needle on culture. Real change requires leaders and teams to refashion the way they do real work, and the way they work together.
Employees are naturally skeptical of change efforts, and may respond in a passive aggressive manner to undermine a transformation. Change is hard, uncertain, and requires effort. It asks people to embark on an uncomfortable journey to a place they may not be able to visualize.
As long as the desired end state remains conceptual, people will remain skeptical and anxious. The traditional change management response is to create the “change imperative.” This is a corporate narrative which often refers to a fate of impending doom, should we not hop on board with the new direction.
This may seem like a good motivator, but people may not connect with the message enough to overcome their fears. They drastically overweight the comfort of the current state, and heavily discount visions of a possible future state. This perspective is easily justified by the high failure rate of transformation projects over the past decades. And it is further reinforced by conflicting messages and politicking by leaders.
Of course this does not alter the urgent and important need expressed by the change imperative. So it is incumbent upon leaders to tackle the culture problem. We help leaders do so, by involving their teams in a dialogue, taking seriously employee reservations, and making moves that allow team members to experience firsthand the benefits of agile ways of working.