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The 6 S’s of Agile Organizations

If you’ve been reading any business blogs or just scrolling through LinkedIn, you’re sure to have come across the term agile. “The future is Agile…” the articles declare. “Agile teams are the key to success…” Or, “Agile organizations win the war over talent…”

But what exactly do they mean by “Agility”? And, how does an organization become more agile?

Agility is demonstrated through an organization’s willingness to respond (notice I didn’t say react, I said respond) to its ever-changing environment. A reaction can be panicked, last-minute, and seemingly uncontrollable. Whereas a response is thought out, integrated through iterative processes, and involves preparation and a greater purpose. Agile organizations create an environment that responds to change by regularly stimulating it from within. They don’t operate top-down or bottom-up, they operate outside-in; they learn constantly from a changing market, not from their yearly projection plans. Agile organizations continuously teach themselves to thrive in uncertainty, which is why in 2020 agility became more than just a fad, it became a lifeline.

Creating an agile organization is not as complex as you might think. Agility is a mindset, not a fixed methodology. Accordingly, there are dozens of agile-based practices you can put into play to become more adept to change. Some of the more popular frameworks are Scrum, Kanban, and Lean Development, each with their own approach to cultivating an agile mindset. Whether a company is full of ScrumMasters or closely following the 5 principles of Lean, there are some underlying themes that guide each agile practice:

1. Strategy: The entire organization shares a greater purpose and vision. There is a deeper understanding of why things are done and every task is built with alignment to the common goal of the organization.

2. Structure: Flat organizations empower every team member to actively participate in decision-making. Team members prioritize their own projects and hold each other accountable through hands-on governance.

3. System: Every process is focused on long-term business results and short-term learning, so rather than asking “What did you do?” agile organizations ask “What did you learn?” This allows them to have rapid decision-making processes and learning cycles.

4. Self-awareness: There is a constant communication flow from the organization as it simultaneously solicits continuous feedback from individuals and teams. Team members in any role are aware of what’s going on throughout the organization.

5. Shared Leadership: Leaders cultivate a high level of trust with their teams and they lead through inspiration as opposed to instruction. The leadership team acts more as facilitator than manager or director, which allows the individuals to take ownership and pride in their projects.

6. Savvy: The pursuit isn’t in the product, it’s in the process. Agile organizations are constantly finding new and innovative ways to make the company the best version of itself. This is why you see companies like Apple and Google constantly branching into new technology; they’re not focused on what they’re creating, but the why and how behind it.

Creating an agile organization requires more than setting the right guidelines, it needs the right people. Agile organizations thrive with members who cultivate a growth mindset to adapt to change and challenge the status quo in order to succeed. Integrating agility at onboarding and reinforcing it at every level can help a team and organization operate at the cutting-edge. It also keeps your talent engaged and creative.

Most organizations weren’t expecting the events of 2020, but with agile practices, they can learn to embrace them, run with them, and innovate through them.

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Catherine Germinario

Partner, Certified ScrumMaster

Over the past few years, Catherine gained experience ranging from human resources and program administration to the heart of any business, sales, and marketing. She quickly moved into multiple training and management roles, creating training material, building processes, and spearheading women-in-sales focus groups. At Optify, she focuses her efforts on business development and marketing campaigns as a thought leader to continue to expand outreach.

Catherine holds a Masters of Arts in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She earned her B.A. in Psychology from Christopher Newport University with minors in Leadership and Communications. Catherine was also an avid member of the President’s Leadership Program and recipient of the Joann S. Squires Award for Industrial and Organizational Psychology in 2018.