Saturday, October 26, 2013

What makes an organization agile?

Have you ever heard these phrases?  
·         “There is just too much paperwork to get anything done in this organization.”
·         “We have process paralysis in this organization.”
·         “How can we think creatively if we continue to suppress creativity   with paperwork?”

Most of us can relate to these phrases, and for some of us, they hit a nerve. As a Project Manager (PM), I believe that a defined process is much better than working in an adhoc environment where a PM puts out “fires” instead of bringing a project to completion. However, we can have the other side of the coin, can’t we? We can have a PM working mostly on paperwork and process and not being the leader that he/she should be to the project team and the organization in general.  

If you haven’t heard these phrases, congratulations! You work in an agile organization, namely, one that focuses on completing a project without over-burdening paperwork or process. What I mean by this is that an agile organization does adhere to some level of process, but is not encumbered by large amounts of documentation and ONLY driven by process. Some would ask if the size of an organization matters if that organization is more or less agile. I argue that it the areas should be in process and creativity.
Agility in Process 
Are smaller organizations more agile in process? Yes, because they have to be agile to be competitive. However, they tend to be adhoc when it comes to process and sometimes the fireman figure comes to mind. Smaller organizations are more concerned about being competitive than they are being process-driven. In a smaller organization, it is all about winning the next bid or making sure the project is successfully implemented, no matter how many corners you have to cut. This can also be said of a research organization, which tends to be large, for they are about getting the next drug to clinical tests or getting the next new product discovered. In these types of organizations, there tends to be a need for completion over process. This can also lead to chaos and no defined process. 
Agility in Creativity  
Are smaller organizations more agile in creativity? Again, yes, because they have to be stay competitive. However, I know of many large organizations that make it easier for individuals to be creative by rewards. For example, 3M comes to mind in that case. However, when it comes to project management, we PMs are focused on process and process-driven results. Creativity may have to take a back seat regarding the project, unless we require creative thinking to resolve project issues. It does become harder to get project team members to think “outside the box” when they are use to a process-driven method, but it can happen and I have seen success taken from the jaws of defeat in project teams that think creatively when asked to.
Is there a balance between a process-driven organization and a creative one?
Absolutely yes! As a matter of fact, I ask larger organizations using a process-driven methodology to think about reducing paperwork as an improvement project. Just because an organization has a process does NOT mean it must have a single form for every piece of information. Think about re-using existing forms for different phases. Can the requirements document be the basis of the user acceptance test cases? Well, why not? Every organization should be thinking in this matter.
An agile organization may be the answer to many questions and problems in an organization. One must begin by asking: “Are we adding documentation, or are we adding value?”

I am open to discussion at any time on these blogs or anything else related to project management you would like to explore. If you would like to comment about this blog, please do so by posting on this blog or by responding in an email at Benny A. Recine. You may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.

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