Why change-agility is essential for Agile

If there's one thing organisations and teams need in these disruptive times, it’s the ability to pull together, pivot quickly and get things done.
Read time 4min 10sec
Barbara Walsh is MD of Metaco Consulting, a subsidiary of the Comair Group.
Barbara Walsh is MD of Metaco Consulting, a subsidiary of the Comair Group.

In its original form, Agile is known as a project management methodology that uses short development cycles called “sprints” to focus on continuous improvement in the development of a product or service.

The 12 principles that guide Agile come from the Agile Manifesto, created by developers for developers, which include:

1. Customer satisfaction is always the highest priority and is achieved through rapid and continuous delivery.

2. Changing environments are embraced at any stage of the process to provide the customer with a competitive advantage.

3. A product or service is delivered with higher frequency.

4. Stakeholders and developers collaborate closely on a daily basis.

5. All stakeholders and team members remain motivated for optimal project outcomes, while teams are provided with all the necessary tools and support, and are trusted to accomplish project goals.

6. Face-to-face meetings are deemed the most efficient and effective format for project success.

7. A final working product is the ultimate measure of success.

8. Sustainable development is accomplished through agile processes, whereby development teams and stakeholders are able to maintain a constant and ongoing pace.

9. Agility is enhanced through a continuous focus on technical excellence and proper design.

10. Simplicity is an essential element.

11. Self-organising teams are most likely to develop the best architectures and designs, and meet requirements.

12.  Regular intervals are used by teams to improve efficiency through fine-tuning behaviours.

Agile doesn’t mean change-agility

Agile may have commenced in the “IT and developer space”, if such silos still exist these days, but the principles that underpin the methodology can be representative of a different way of being for organisations. In fact, notice anything about the above points? These look like good business principles.

We must, however, analyse the potential great divide: Agile is a project management methodology which differs to change-agility, which is an aspect of culture. Ironically, organisations looking to adopt Agile as a working methodology would do well to entrench change-agility in culture.

What is a culture of change-agility?

Agility is essentially a mindset which favours growth and learning above all else. It benefits people and organisations by having the ability to make decisions quickly, to fail fast, and more importantly, move forward and adopt new technology or processes needed in order to disrupt.

If there’s one thing organisations and teams need in these disruptive times, it’s the ability to pull together, pivot quickly and get things done.

Agility is essentially a mindset which favours growth and learning above all else.

Change-agility can be applied in any aspect of the business; not specifically in the IT, digital or development space. This requires an emotionally mature organisation, not in terms of its age but in terms of its approach. It’s the curiosity, collaboration and desire to contribute growth and value that provides the next-level competitive advantage organisations seek.

Change-agility in the South African context

One need only look at South African organisations, including Yoco, Investec and Veldskoen, to see how a growth mindset impacts positively on business.

Brands such as these are curious about what lies beyond, when an initiative fails they want to understand why in order to improve, they work in teams to leverage value that exists beyond the sum of the parts and they’re obsessed, yes obsessed, with doing things better in order to contribute value to their stakeholders.

McKinsey describes being agile as the move from an organisation as a machine to the organisation as an organism. This means having a North Star vision, a network of empowered teams, rapid decision and learning cycles, dynamic people and next-generation technology.

This makes sense but how exactly does the organisation adopt change-agility?

Traditionally, change management has been adopted to manage change and while many organisations have realised that change is not a once-off event, few have been able to adopt change into the culture.

Change management is about projects, whereas change-agility is about people. It’s a continuous process and one that enables organisations to embody the change as a way of being. To summarise the how, it’s about (coaches and experts) working with people and teams within the organisation to enable them to work differently.

As the rate of change grows increasingly faster, the importance of incorporating change-agility into everyday work life has never been greater. Organisational capability to effectively deal with such an environment requires change-agile leaders and employees at all levels, throughout the business.

Agility is not just a tool you apply – it is a character or behaviour that you possess, or that you don’t. Hygger

Barbara Walsh

Managing director of Metaco.

Barbara Walsh is managing director of Metaco, a subsidiary of the Comair Group, and a bespoke consultancy focusing on strategic enablement, organisational design and change-agility.

As a master systemic team and executive coach, she works locally and internationally, focusing on the training and development of accredited internal coaches within organisations and systemic team coaching programmes for coaches, consultants and senior leaders.

Walsh has an MSc in coaching and behavioural change through Henley Business School in the UK, and is registered as a Master HR Practitioner: Learning and Development with the SA Board for People Practices.

With extensive experience and a solid track record working across different industries, she has in-depth knowledge of what it takes to plan strategically in the face of an uncertain future, to build relationships at all levels, and partner across stakeholder groups in service of a common purpose.

Walsh is a popular contributor to topical media on the subject of leadership, change management, agility, team enablement and organisational development.

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