Monday, November 15, 2010

Agile Organization

We try to grow agile leaders. We mostly follow agile project management.

But we're still not fast enough. So, now what?

We're now implementing a homegrown method of agile business management.

At its core, agile process simply means faster adaptation to change. By more rapidly iterating toward solutions, often in smaller steps, you drive faster overall progress.

Why not the same with overall business governance? On one hand, almost all forms of governance tend to move slowly-- and by design. Since governance relates to consistent management, cohesive policies, and repeatable processes, rapid iteration seems a contradiction. Governance is supposed to be deliberative and careful.

But we're finding that making rapid adjustments to governance are just as effective in management as in software development. These changes relate to people deployment, hiring, performance feedback, project assignment and prioritization, role definition and oversight-- in short, the "messy" people issues that are less comfortable to talk about than the status of projects. The messy issues involve changing the team itself, not debating project variances.

Who cares if a project is on schedule if learnings indicate the project should be 10X bigger in scope? Who cares if a project is on schedule if the learnings indicate the project is doomed? Who cares why a project is badly behind schedule if the learning is the people on the project are over their heads?

In all of these cases, it's difficult to project manage your way to the best outcome. You need bigger moves, like a change in strategy, structure, and people.

These changes are less risky than people fear. Change keeps people fresh, spurs innovative thinking, challenges policies that need to change, and sharpens execution. Agileness keeps things moving.

As with agile development, we closely monitor the business management changes. When the tests work, we continue and potentially accelerate. When they fail, we try something else.

The keys to this approach are honesty and trust. Management must be courageously honest about what is not working and what can be done better. Management must trust one another to facilitate change.

I'm hoping we can make our governance as agile as our project management.

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