• Patrick Verdonk

Enterprise Agility is about finding the right questions to ask

Actualizado: 29 jul 2021

As we have entered the third decade of the 21st century it seems the word ‘transformation’ keeps a poll position in business. Every day we can read about companies embarking on or continuing with their […] Transformations (fill in the blank with Digital, Cultural, Enterprise, Mindset, Agile, or whatever else you can think of).

Especially in the world of agility we seem to have moved from having 4 values and 12 principles for Agile Software Development to an overload of ‘everything’ Agile.

It is getting so bad (in my opinion) that, for example, Time Management courses I followed back in the 90’s, are now promoted as ‘Personal Agility’. I mean… REALLY?

"The way forward is paradoxically not to look ahead, but to look around"

- John Sealy Brown, the director of the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) for Xerox.

Let’s follow that advice and stop and look around for a second. As Daniel Christian Wahl keeps repeating in his highly recommendable book Designing Regenerative Cultures: let’s spend some time to find the right questions to answer and not finding the right answers to the wrong questions.

First: Transformations are a natural thing (any complex, socio-ecological system undergoes transformation cyclically).

Questions we might ask are:

  • Why are we embarking on this transformation?

  • Why now?

  • What is our trigger?

  • What are we transforming? Into what?

  • What do we know that can enhance or hinder the transformation?

  • What do we not know?

  • What do we need to know?

Second: Transformations are (almost) never ‘all-in-from-the-start’, we start with department […], or with a transversal pilot group.

Questions we might ask:

  • What do we start with, Culture? Structure? Strategy? People? Processes? Tools?

  • Who do we start with and why?

  • What impacts do we expect and accept?

  • What type of leadership suits our context?

  • What may happen, but we are not certain about?

  • What capabilities do we have, and which do we need?

Third: Transformations cost money. A lot of it!

Questions we might ask are:

  • What should we measure to know we’re moving in the right direction?

  • What is adding value early on? Have we defined ‘added value’?

  • What are necessary evils to deal with? Why?

  • Do we need to tightly control our spending during the transformation?

  • Do we have sufficient sources of income, or capital at hand to embark on a long journey?

  • Can we reduce risk by taking small steps? How?

Fourth: Transformations are about people. Yes, even digital transformations start with people!

Questions we might ask are:

  • Who is impacted directly, indirectly, or just a spectator?

  • Who must be involved and why?

  • Why is this important for ‘these’ people?

  • What can we do to motivate involved people?

  • What can we do to make things simple for the people involved?

  • Do people have time to work on this transformation?

The non-checklist

This is not an invitation to use the suggested questions as a check list. Those questions are just a sample. A sample to help you understand that before answering questions, we should stop and think about the right questions to ask in our context.

Accept that any transformation comes with a great deal of uncertainty, there’ll always be things we don’t know and impacts we don’t expect. Work to reduce uncertainty. Experiment, learn and decide on next actions.

If we must transform […] into something new. Let’s be conscious about it, let’s work with the people around us on it, let’s accept there is no fixed path of planning-execution-closure that’ll lead us straight forward to ‘something new’.

This is an invitation to have a conversation. To stop, look around and have a conversation about the right questions to ask to move forward.

Enterprise Agility

Before you start to wonder what the title of this post has to do with the content…

For most of the companies Enterprise Agility is (or will be) ‘just’ the next transformation on the never-ending journey of running a business.

A transformation that, hopefully, goes beyond implementing Agile independently in each department.

A transformation that’ll help the company to understand its complexity, the role it plays in society and the uncertainty in which it will always operate.

A transformation that enhances a company’s ability to exploit what they have and explore the new at the same time.

A transformation that’ll help them understand that running a corporation is a path of continuous learning and adaptation.

A path of continual conversation to find the right questions to ask.

Join us in an Agility in the Enterprise Bootcamp (ICP-ENT and ICP-CAT) in November in London!

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