From agile-friendly C-suites to new business models, organizations are taking steps to support organizational agility. In fact, according to a Forbes Insights and Scrum Alliance survey, 81% of executives consider agility to be the most important characteristic of a successful organization. For those that succeed at achieving greater agility, respondents cite impressive rewards: faster time to market (60%), faster innovation (59%) and improved non-financial results (58%).
New rules, new roles
To increase agility, many executives are eliminating hierarchy: 44% have already introduced a flatter structure to become more adaptive. Others are reorganizing reporting lines and creating a position responsible for agile. For example, 70% of respondents want an agile executive to promote a non-hierarchical culture. And in the year ahead, nearly half (49%) of organizations are changing up organizational structures to support agile approaches.
Management in the age of agile requires more than moving boxes around on an organizational chart. It’s about creating the right dynamics for teams to iterate quickly and make rapid-fire decisions. Certainly, a hierarchical structure can significantly impede progress for some companies. But the notion that an enterprise must be flat to be agile is a myth. Agile enterprises don’t just eliminate hierarchy; they rethink roles so that individuals are empowered to maximize business value.
Here’s how the roles of CEO, manager and frontline employee must evolve to support greater agility.
The adaptable CEO
No longer can the C-suite sit on the sidelines as organizations come to terms with demanding customers, fluctuating market trends and disruptive technologies. Rather, the C-suite must play an integral part in driving adoption of agility across the enterprise by embracing an agile mindset and remaining flexible in the face of change. In fact, 35% of survey respondents say the CEO is responsible for organizational agility, and 87% view the CEO as the biggest proponent of organizational agility.
The strategy-minded manager
Forget about telling employees what tasks to work on and how to execute them. Because Scrum teams — collections of individuals working within an agile framework — are self-organizing, managers must take advantage of this new-found freedom to focus on more mission-critical initiatives, such as “strategy, mentoring individuals, leading with good practices throughout the organization and helping to build a leaner organization,” says John Miller, an agile coach with Agile For All.
This shift from legacy to agile management “is tough for a lot of traditional managers,” explains Miller. However, he adds, the result is a leader who is better equipped to “remove the organizational impediments” that block employees from achieving their goals.
The autonomous frontline employee
There are a couple of ways frontline employees can evolve to support a more agile organization. First, says Miller, “they need to learn how to be more self-directed.” Rather than simply follow managers’ orders, self-directed teams are groups of motivated individuals who work together to achieve a common goal, have the autonomy to make and act on decisions, and readily adapt to changing demands. They pull work for themselves rather than wait for managers to assign tasks, and they’re not afraid to ask questions for greater clarification. This is achieved when teams are given tough problems to solve, not just solutions to execute.
Another new undertaking for frontline workers: collaboration. “Workers need to shift their focus away from just getting their piece of the puzzle done to really focusing on outcomes and results, and owning these results,” says Miller. To accomplish this, he says, “workers must collaborate with others in a cross-functional team and across teams to get the job done.”
By embracing these new roles and responsibilities, employees across an organization can support an agile organization while making a more meaningful impact on business outcomes.
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