How to Embrace an Agile Culture at Your Organization

October 16, 2018
Blog, Leadership
By Alex Perrin and Darby O'Connor

With the uncertainty of changing customer needs, an increasingly diverse workforce, and a barrage of new technology, organizations must constantly adapt to meet evolving market demands. Successful organizations will recognize and address the need to maximize constrained resources while increasing value and impact to their customers. This has led modern organizations to jump on the “Agile train” in increasing numbers. While Agile was originally developed to improve software development and delivery, Agile values and principles have expanded beyond IT development into the operations and culture of organizations.

From Silicon Valley startups to U.S. Federal Government agencies, organizations that are implementing these principles often speak about “doing Agile.” But what does it actually mean to “BE Agile?”

When an organization truly embraces Agile, the Agile values and principles become an integral part of the organization’s culture. Organizations that embody an Agile culture all seek to do the following:
Foster an open environment of transparent communications and collaboration, both inside your company and externally with your customers and stakeholders
● Provide a workplace where there is freedom to experiment and learn, and embrace the possibility for failure—which is where the most learning occurs
Connect with your customers to understand their true needs, and welcome their continuous feedback
● Prioritize work based on expected value for the recipient: focus on the fewest, most important initiatives first
Empower employees to make decisions at the lowest possible levels, and trust they will be executed
● Train employees to be adaptable and flexible instead of relying on static plans

At The Clearing, we champion an Agile culture, both in how we collaborate internally and in how we engage with our clients. One way we express our agility is through use of The PRIMES, a collection of group behavior frameworks that outfit us to solve challenging business problems. An example of a PRIME that incorporates Agile principles is the “BE” PRIME. The BE PRIME aligns with the Agile principle of continuous and rapid improvement. At The Clearing, we pause at regular intervals to examine how we are “being,” and assess whether our behavior serves the best interests of ourselves and others.

We frequently ask, “How can we be better?”, and pivot based on our discoveries. As an example, the initial preparation for a recent client session meant our team had devoted hours to building an effective meeting design and agenda. Despite our aspirations for a well-planned day, the dynamics in the room led to our original session design falling completely flat. With the BE PRIME in mind, the facilitation team regrouped at lunch and threw the initial design completely out the window. Flexing our agility, we quickly came up with a new plan to better serve our clients and ultimately produce the intended results and reactions. Given the uncertainties shaping business and government today, this kind of in-the-moment adaptability is essential to achieve desired outcomes–even if the path to those outcomes must change along the way.

The most impactful organizations don’t just adopt Agile in name only; they ARE Agile, weaving Agile principles into the fabric of their culture. Responding nimbly to customer needs, cultivating a learning environment, and focusing on the essential–these are all hallmarks of organizations with a peak performance, Agile culture. Transitioning to Agile can have a positive impact on the way your organization does business, but it is a major shift in mindset and way of work which can be difficult to implement.

In the next installation of our Agile series, we will discuss the challenges of implementing Agile and how to mitigate and reduce risk during Agile transformation. For more insight on how to implement and embrace an Agile culture at your organization, contact us today.

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