What is the Role of Management in an Agile Business Environment?

Agile management is touted as being the future of business but putting it into practice can raise a lot of questions. It is more than just a project management philosophy; it can be adapted as a way of managing the whole business.

First and foremost (and what we’re looking at in this blog) is the role of management in a more agile business environment.

CIO outlined the 12 key principles of agile in this article.

One of the most popular forms of agile structure is one where teams are self-organizing, which can seem to point towards a flat organizational hierarchy. But in that type of environment, what happens to the C-Suite?

Moving to an agile structure absolutely does not mean getting rid of the executive hierarchy. Here are three common misconceptions and what you can do about them:

Misconception #1: Agile only applies to non-executive employees.

Reality: Agile should start at the executive level.

Senior leadership teams need to become more agile in and of themselves. To start, focus on fewer things. For example, Steve Jobs famously used to get his teams together and brainstorm 100 possible priorities. He would then narrow that list down to 10. And then he would cross out the bottom seven items and say, “we can only focus on three.”

Less really can be more when it comes to goal setting. Too many focus points can dilute results and keep your business stagnant. Clear goals at the leadership level will help everybody know what they should be working towards and how they contribute to achieving those goals. And to be truly agile, those goals are reviewed and refined in an ongoing manner, and changes are well communicated throughout the organization.

Misconception #2: Agile management ends at the policy phase.

Reality: Agile management should be ongoing.

The more traditional management approach was to set annual goals and then expect everybody in the organization would work towards achieving those goals. Annual reviews were used to see if it all happened as planned. Today everything can change so quickly, and that approach just doesn’t work anymore. In an agile environment, goals are reviewed on an ongoing basis and adjusted as necessary to accommodate changes. To be effective, this requires a high level of management engagement to stay up to date on changes as well as to enforce alignment throughout the whole company.

Agile business is an ongoing effort. Regularly checking in with your teams, providing ongoing education and support, coaching, and staff investments are all much more important in an agile environment. It can take the executive-employee relationship from task-based (“do what I assign to you”) to a broader, more mentor-like dynamic (“how can I support you?”).

Misconception #3: Agile is simple.

Reality: Agile is a fundamental shift in mindset.

When you read an article about agile management, it sounds easy in theory. And it is easy to understand, but it can be hard to implement. Creating an agile business environment isn’t just a one-and-done deal. It needs to be continuous and something the whole organization is onboard with. It takes time to understand the tenets, to find out what works for your team, and to change your approach. But the results can be worth it if it’s right for you.

The fact is that there is still a place for executive management, even in a flat hierarchy. An organization still needs direction and strategic vision.

Also, not every part of your business needs to be, or even should be, agile. More traditional structures, such as accounting, purchasing, and plant maintenance, can still deliver lower costs and better returns through traditional approaches. Assess your business with an open mind to see where more agility could have the greatest effect.

At SHEA Global, we can help you assess your business’s strengths and opportunities. We can make sure your business efforts are on track and that you have the right solutions to support your business environment, agile or otherwise.

Contact us today to learn more about our work. Call 905-470-6830 or visit SHEAGlobal.com.