Has it ever happened to your organization that a great business opportunity passed you by because you were unable to react quickly enough? Or, would a change in the organization be necessary, but would take long months? I know it from the autopsy. It's quite common and even natural - it's usually better to prepare well for a change than to jump head first only to fail.
On the other hand, let's imagine a different kind of organization. One where team members can change duties or the current project in a few hours - and they are replaced stress-free, without delay and uncertainty. If necessary, business continuity will be maintained despite the unavailability of a given employee. Let's call the principles of this organization "extreme agility".
The ability to adapt is crucial in business - that's why it's better to be an organization whose procedures allow for quick reactions during a crisis or simply the absence of an employee important for the project. Small players in combat or business must use their comparative advantages. Great institutions are like a heavily armored knight who would not even be able to stop a mighty sword swing - momentum (or sunk costs) prevents him from dodging and changing strategy in the middle of battle.
So I tried to create such an organization!
I have always loved bold, fresh designs. Are you looking for someone who will quickly jump headfirst into quite a risky venture? All me! At the same time, I'm not a visionary who gets bored quickly - but the extremely fine, gradual polishing of one process over and over again is also not my favorite activity. That's why I wanted to create a culture where not only new ideas are often born and greeted with enthusiasm, but also executed quickly and effectively. An organization that can adapt to new conditions immediately. A place that will perch on those whose first thoughts are "too risky", "non-standard" or "too time-consuming".
Four years later, I can report that we succeeded! Our team is a living demonstration that building an agile team with culture as its binder is possible. We are interchangeable in our duties and we do it without losing important information. By replacing someone, we maintain a high standard of services without any problems. What's more, sometimes we take on completely different types of responsibilities from each other!
7 FOUNDATIONS OF EXTREME AGILITY
Open yourself! Transparency pays off. Always have a team member and team leader in your CC emails to customers. Keep your data clean and up to date. Send regular project progress summaries - both to the team and the client. A crucial telephone conversation cannot fail to end with a detailed note being written down. Don't create secret Slack channels just for the client. It's not about control at all! For a team to be resistant to change, it must have access to key information at all times.
Each project, process or idea should be built with a view to possibly transferring the related responsibilities to someone other than, e.g. the original project owner. Circumstances may make it necessary to hand over the project at short notice. For this reason, it's always good to have at least one other person on the project who can quickly take control. Some clients think I'm joking when I ask them a simple question: "what would happen if you got hit by a car this morning?" How well would your team and your projects work without you?
The exchange of knowledge in an organization should be a mandatory and natural phenomenon. Edu-lunches, a decent feedback culture, sharing your success stories/lessons learned, regular retrospective meetings (e.g. STAR, SHIP or 5xWHY) - we have successfully implemented all these initiatives. This is an important factor in providing team members with continuous development opportunities. It also allows for a more even growth of the organization and ensures that no one is “left behind”. Agility cannot excuse a lack of knowledge.
Good cooperation is one of the most important duties of both me and every employee. Collaboration is a catalyst for an agile organization because the team needs to understand each other very well in order to work effectively and be able to improve processes together. After all, it happens that different people carry out the same process in a different way. We try to avoid it!
Andy Grove in his book "High Management Output" writes that the job of a manager is to constantly standardize work. This mindset has its roots in the manufacturing industry, but it is also an important lesson for service companies. The key processes in the company should be absurdly clear and identical for everyone. As far as small deviations can naturally occur, no one should take over a project wondering "What am I even supposed to do now?". It helps to divide processes into smaller stages - thanks to this, it is easier to find out at what stage of the project we are and what the next steps should be.
6. Project management skills
In my opinion, this is the most important set of skills that a team member should have. It doesn't matter what types of projects and tasks we are talking about. Nothing helps in running projects like the ability to break down tasks into a series of smaller steps, establish an exact list of tasks based on them, plan a roadmap for their implementation or structure a challenge in a “build-measure-learn” loop.
7. Recruit potential, not competence
If there is a chance - however small - that the characteristics of a given role or position will change even slightly, do not focus on competencies. Instead, look for a proven ability and predisposition to develop. Competences that are important today may not be useful in a few months. But if the candidate is willing to learn, has a history of personal development and can perform tasks effectively - don't hesitate! How flexible is your organization? Where is it still lacking in this regard? If you want to talk about our evolution, or maybe even ask difficult questions - I invite you :)