The Five Steps to building an Agile Organization

The current model of employment in the companies is designed to box people/talent into squares, triangles, and rectangles. For example, when a Finance Manager is hired, they are hired into a department rather than into a larger pool of Finance Managers. The hiring today is defined by who pays for it rather than a question of are we optimizing our existing talent pool.

The current model is fundamentally defined to help draw organizational boundaries as a way to drive focus rather than the work boundaries needed to enable outcomes. However, as we enter the era of Open Innovation and Sharing Economy, the fierce rate of disruption, the horizontal integration of work boundaries, the need for an adaptive and agile workforce becomes more prominent.

Designing for an agile/adaptive organization with a rigid/box like structure is simply an unsustainable way of operating. So what should organizations do?

#1: Create a Community of “Similar” People

Well, expanding on the example of Finance, Organizations should hire Employees into a Community that provides various layers of expertise— (e.g. CFO, FP&A Analyst, Finance Manager). Instead of locking them down into a role, they are now part of the pool. The most important community here would be the Product or Portfolio leaders.

#2: Harmonize Processes and Platforms

The Community governed by a leader should then optimize the processes and platforms. The idea being everyone should be able to do the tasks in a similar way across the company. This is very much akin to the SouthWest Airlines model of having a single fleet of aircraft that all its pilots can fly.

#3: Define Tour of Duties

As defined in the book The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age, create tour of duties. Each tour has a start and end date after which they can be released back into the People Pool (or) benched as appropriate. This fosters a much more fluid working environment.

#4: Build Utilization & Reputation Metrics

The existing performance management systems need to evolve into a reputation management system. Every person in the company carries an unsaid persona/reputation. That reputation should be made transparent and there by an incentive created to upkeep it. The reputation invariably will drive the utilization.

#5: Hire a People Insights Leader

The good old world of resource manager or staffing manager is making a glorious comeback. When people can holistically rip open long standing political systems, recreate operating systems, they can certainly get together to solve for specific organizational problems. The People Insights Leader looks at the current people pool, capabilities, utilization, project pipeline, requirements, and simply connect people to purpose (projects, innovations, challenges, sales etc.)

Lastly

Today, Consulting or Professional Services firms, Field Service or other Staffing projects do an effective job at this. Large organizations can inspire and adopt it. The Future of HR is to connect people to outcomes. Creating a fluid structure that is insightful, efficient, and one that is relentlessly focused on connecting people to outcomes is key to building an adaptive organization.

What do you think are other ways of building agile organizations?

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