Tony Shawver serves as Director and National Agile Practice leader at MATRIX. He possesses over 18 years of Business and Technology experience including design engineering, software application development, consulting and coaching. Tony’s current focus is split between transforming organizations into more adaptive, collaborative, better places to work through pragmatic coaching, training, and consulting, along with coaching product teams to be more effective and responsive by utilizing agility holistically across their product development approach.
Business Agility: What guardrails do you promote?
It is no secret that the world around us is changing rapidly. Technology changes get most of the press, but it doesn't stop there. Globalization, social media and other forces affect many of today's organizations across a wide span - from manufacturers to retailers to service organizations. Regardless of the industry, organizations must remain adaptable and responsive to be competitive in the modern landscape.
To support this responsiveness, MATRIX introduced Holistic Agile a few years back. This approach was designed to make any organization more adaptable by focusing on key principles across the organization. By taking a more holistic approach, organizations (including our own) have benefitted and increased the responsiveness to their customers - both internal and external.
Through utilizing Holistic Agile, we've found that both function-level and enterprise-level components to agility are vital to success. We refined our approach to what we now call "Business agility with holistic focus". This is an evolution of the approach which ensures flexibility within functional areas to tailor their approach (micro) while still retaining the holistic (macro) to ensure organizational transparency, collaboration & alignment. At its core, the approach leverages 11 values:
Business agility with holistic focus
1. Establishing trust and empowerment through a culture of decentralized decision-making
We increase ownership, empowerment, accountability, and responsiveness by enabling our people at various levels, trusting them to make the right decisions and supporting them through the failures.
2. Transparency is what keeps us honest with both ourselves and our customers
We value transparency – both internally and externally – as it supports the detailed information flow and awareness required to make the best decisions.
3. Our people are our greatest assets
The current and future success of our organization is driven largely by our people. We strive to attract and retain our quality talent by providing a safe, healthy work environment for them to grow and thrive.
4. Promoting a Learning culture is crucial to Deliver value frequently
A symbiotic relationship exists between Learning and Delivering value. An organization learns best when delivering small slices of value quickly, and delivers best when focused on learning.
5. Recognize, adapt and exceed the modern pace of change
Change isn’t constant, it’s accelerating – and we must enable our organization to adapt appropriately and remain responsive through small, quick pivots to our strategies, funding and execution.
6. Cross-functional teams maximize communication, capability and effectiveness
We value right-sized, cross-functional teams as a mechanism to provide value with effectiveness, efficiency and diversity of thought.
7. Innovation isn’t a risk, it’s a survival tool
A culture of innovation at every level of the organization allows us to continuously adapt our approach to delivering value to our stakeholders, delighting our customers, and making our environment a great place to work.
8. Exercising customer empathy ensures we are maximizing customer value
A conscientious effort to empathize with our customers allows us to keep our finger on the pulse of our customers and market. Delivering the right value comes through experiencing the world through their perspective.
9. Regular inspection to facilitate alignment and continuous improvement
Through regular inspection of both the value delivered and how we deliver it, we promote alignment, continuous improvement and remain responsive to the accelerated industrial, social and technological changes.
10. Collaboration ensures we effectively strategize, deliver and evolve as a team
Collaboration within our organization is crucial to support individual mastery, domain understanding and strong team relationships which are key to achieving our vision.
11. A Pragmatic approach to processes, practices, and tools
Processes, practices and tools are things we utilize to be more lean, efficient and effective at our work while gaining competitive advantages. Through using them, we must maintain the same nimbleness and responsiveness that we strive for across our organization.
These principles have been used across a wide variety of functional areas with tremendous success: Causing Finance teams to improve their AR & AP processes and better collaborate with other parts of the organization; Assisting Support and Helpdesk teams in refining their workstreams to improve their effectiveness and free up more time for innovation; Providing HR teams with approaches to refocus their efforts and strengthen their strategic alignment; Enabling senior management across disparate functions to better collaborate and prioritize across enterprise initiatives. The list goes on. In addition to these “micro” successes within specific functional teams, the “macro” effects across the organization can be felt: Increased transparency, collaboration and alignment across the organization which enables more delegation, autonomy and accountability; Improved communication, relationships, and results leading to higher customer satisfaction; More team interaction, learning, and achievements leading to increased employee morale.
What does your organization value? Do they share some similarities with the values listed above? Will the current values which your organization promotes and lives enable the adaptability you need to be successful? Mission, Vision & Values have been around for decades and their age sometimes causes them to get overlooked. People see MVV as that thing that gets attention when new leadership comes in, but the culture of the organization doesn’t always seem to align with them. Without all levels of the organization living and breathing them, they simply feel like someone else’s words. However, with leadership support, a refresh of your existing values to those which will help you achieve your future goals is a positive step in refocusing your organization and provides all levels of the organization with the proper guardrails to lean against moving forward.