San Jose Salon Dinner: Make Meaningful Progress Forward With Business Agility

Allison Mandel

Smart leaders want to move their organizations in the same direction — to be more productive, more efficient, and better than the competition. To do this, they need to transform their organizations into agile enterprises.

However, an agile transformation doesn’t come without challenges. Business leaders are facing cultural and communication barriers that make it difficult to keep everyone up to speed and on the same page. This is especially difficult when things are moving so fast and even more so for large companies with diverse workforces.

To gain insights into the primary challenges of working with business agility and how best-in-class strategy leaders are continually succeeding year after year through all the disruption, Catalant co-hosted an invitation-only salon dinner with 12 senior executives at Fortune 1000 companies in San Jose with Workplace by Facebook.

Based on their discussions of best practices, lessons learned, and immediate impacts of implementing agility into their organizations, we put together three steps business leaders should take to make meaningful progress forward towards a successful agile transformation.

1. Restate Priorities

The first step is for everyone to toss out old ways of thinking and engrained mindsets to make room for new processes and priorities. True enterprise agility requires company-wide buy-in across all units and stakeholdersExecutives should send the message that working in an agile way is a priority across the organization. 

Employees need to understand how their roles and work streams tie back to the company’s strategic direction towards agility and innovation. This includes managers who may need to receive training to learn how to manage blended teams that include both internal and external employees from various departments and business units.

Successful agile companies have a shared sense of purpose. Everyone in the business should prioritize a culture of agility and innovation and be willing to make necessary changes.

2. Break Down Functional Silos

Best-in-class business leaders think less in terms of job descriptions and more in terms of granular projects. Successful agile companies break up monolithic initiatives into more specialized and time-constrained work streams, which may require varying skills and expertise. Then, they deploy an agile workforce that matches those specific business needs.

An agile workforce consists of small, cross-functional teams who focus on each of those defined missions or projects for a limited period of time. Teams may be made up of internal employees, independent experts, boutique firms, or even company alumni or retirees.

Companies that are struggling with communication need to break down organizational silos and get the right people on the right projects. Employees must participate in feedback loops and share their learnings, skills, expertise, and knowledge across business units.

3. Leverage Technology

Finally, making meaningful progress forward in realizing an agile operating model involves utilizing technology. Leveraging technology solves for the organizational challenges of operating at scale and frees up people from all constraints that might stop innovation.

Advanced machine-learning and artificial intelligence enable leaders visibility into critical work streams. Agile businesses use automation to find the best people for each business need across different pools of human capital, including internal employees, external independent experts, boutique firms, and alumni and retirees.

As companies scale up and down and people move in and out of teams and departments, leaders need to ensure that the knowledge transfers from one person to the next. With the right technology, companies can leverage actionable insights surrounding into who is working on what projects, what expertise is in house, and which skills are in demand. This allows them to ensure work is not duplicated, track performance, close up skills gaps, and fill roles that have been open for too long.

Speed Kills the Competition

Businesses need to pivot their strategies to stay relevant, competitive, and adapt quickly to meet today’s market demands. Unlike traditional operating models, agile operating models are optimized for speed and adaptiveness with more decentralized decision-making and iterative cycles of work that prioritize speed. 

Smart leaders are rethinking how they get the most critical work done. Simply put, agile organizations are more productive, more efficient, and better than their competition.

Is your company in need of an agile transformation? Learn more about how to get work done faster with the Reimagining Work 20/20 infographic.

Catalant regularly hosts events, including two-day summits and intimate salon dinners to gain insights into how top leaders are continuing to succeed with business agility. Please let us know if you’re interested in attending a future event.

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