The New Normal Work Context Demands Agile Organizations and Leadership
Our traditional organizational model relied on and created stability in a well-known environment. We had predictable work, a static and siloed structure of hierarchy, the ability to conduct linear planning, and easy control over execution. As the world grew more complex, we saw a rise in matrix-like structures, more rules, and more control in an attempt to cope.
With COVID and other social and economic challenges, we’ve reached the limits of this approach. Our leaders and our organizations feel as though they are drowning in complexity.
Could agile organizations be our path forward? Many of our clients have been playing at the edges but very few have truly adopted the principles.
Despite this, there are a few clear benefits that require us to give a second look to becoming an agile organization:
- Agile organizations work through a network of small, empowered teams. They maintain a stable backbone structure but replace much of the remaining traditional hierarchy with a flexible, scalable network of teams that can act quickly and efficiently.
- n to create value quickly, collaboratively, and effectively.
If our organizations need to become more agile in response to the challenges that surround us, how do our leaders need to shift in an agile transformation?
Agile Leaders Enable Organizational Transformation
Leadership becomes even more critical in an agile organization. Leadership and how it shapes culture are the biggest enablers of – or barriers to – a successful agile organizational transformation. It’s challenging to transform culture and ways of working, requiring leaders to serve as visionaries and coaches.
How ready are your leaders to lead an agile transformation? Is leadership in your organization about planning, directing, and controlling? Or do your leaders serve as gardeners, visionaries, architects, coaches, and catalysts?
Our leaders must be gardeners
I believe that our leaders will need to serve as a gardener to enable and cultivate the agile organizations’ greatest assets: the people.
The leaders-as-gardeners perspective requires new capabilities. To be effective in this capacity means:
- Learning new personal mindsets and behaviors: Leaders as gardeners must leave the reactive mindset, experiencing the world based on our response to the circumstances and others’ expectations around us. When challenged, defaulting to this reactive mindset limits out perspective and forces us to focus on what can go wrong, anxiety, frustration, stress. Instead, a creative, or self-authoring, mindset allows leaders to experience the world based on creating our reality and way forward through tapping into and expressing our authentic selves, our core passion and purpose. This creative mindset expands our perspective and focuses us on the positive, and we experience joy, fun, love, and flow.
- Discovering how to help teams work in new ways: Teams are on the rise, and we see increased effectiveness for teams in implementing strategy and responding to changes because of their ability to think innovatively through collaboration.
- Building enterprise agility into the design and culture of the whole organization: I’ve said before that I believe leadership is the antidote to the VUCA environment that surrounds us. Building organizational agility starts with leaders and their teams.
To build and lead agile organizations, leaders must make a personal shift to run primarily in the creative, self-authoring mindset.
Think about your typical day. Do you (and your team) spend most of your time reacting to problems and your boss’ requests, seeking to manage how others respond, and working to deliver perfect outcomes that don’t always materialize? Or do you spend most of your time pursuing your purpose and passion, trusting and empowering others, and exploring new, and sometimes messy, possibilities?
How can you start to shift your thinking from certainty to discovery? From authority to partnership? From scarcity to abundance?