I think there is a need for this thing called Agility in your organization. You agree? You do? OK. I had a feeling you would. It is a burning need, no? Third degree, even. Now let me ask you this. Of all those people in your organization – CXOs, Business users, process owners, compliance managers, IT, you name it – who do you think has the biggest need for that agility? [sound of clock ticking] Ok, let me pose that question differently to you. Who are those people in your organization who lose sleep over a lack of agility? Is anyone even losing sleep at all? Alright. Let me try again. If agility is such a burning need, what are the damages your organization is experiencing in its absence? Can you put a Dollar value to it? If you had to think hard to answer those, then you are probably just very influenced by some vendor pitch that made agility sound like a big deal (and of course, that it was best supported by their tool). Vendors – your BPM product vendor as well as your Systems Integrator – will give you loads of wisdom on Agility and soon, before you know it, Agility begins to figure high up there in your list of ‘must-haves’. That’s not bad at all, having Agility high up in your list. But what is really bad and pointless, is when Agility becomes a Holy Cow for you. That makes you just put it up there in that list without a view on exactly where and how it can really help you. I am coming across more firms that bring it up in the very first conversation about BPM without having really broken it down to see what, how and where exactly agility is going to make a worthwhile impact. Many firms seem to be looking at it like it was some magic pill that could make all their woes disappear, make them happier, wealthier, wiser, fitter, taller and maybe even give a brilliant shine to their teeth. But guess what? After the first automated processes get out that door, all the excitement and eagerness around Agility makes a slow and quiet exit through the other door at the far end. And no one even notices it is gone, and that fancy strategy fades away slowly. But calm down and wipe that sweat off your brow. Although agility in the BPM world is turning out to be a big farce, the sooner you see it, the earlier you can set things straight and address the real agility needs of your organization. Because first, you have to see that it is not something a tool can give you. I wrote about this a few months ago in a post titled A Reality Check on Agility and BPM where I had argued that it is unlikely that a tool capability alone will make your organization agile. Technology may contribute to an extent, no doubt, but that by itself is not going to cut it. Secondly, you need to realize that at the core of this fancy idea of agility is the degree of inclination (or inertia) an organization has towards being responsive, reactive, alert, adaptive to work, business, markets. In other words, the root of agility lies in the collective consciousness of an organization. The the real secret to agility lies with your people. Your culture. Faun deHenry’s recent post titled Culture “vs” Strategy discusses this important aspect that you need to deal with to put agility in the right perspective. She writes
If your organization is an incumbent in an industry that has a disruptive newcomer, adaptability becomes paramount. Yet, strong corporate cultures are typically less adaptable. To use Edgar Schein’s analogy, strong corporate cultures possess antibodies that protect them from “foreign” ideas or proposals. Therefore, it is critical that leaders heed Drucker’s warning and remember the lesson of DEC as they attempt to change a corporate culture so that it can function harmoniously with a new strategy. Culture and strategy must fit and work together to move an organization’s performance forward. Without harmony between culture and strategy, the organization suffers and, eventually, dies.
I couldn’t agree more – and this is really what brings that fundamental quest for agility into perspective. Yet we continue to look towards technology, while we should be equally and in fact more seriously looking at culture, change, and the harmony between culture & strategy to pull it off. That IMHO is really the disconnect that makes Agility in BPM a very elusive thing. What are your thoughts? Do you have any experience of a firm pulling it off successfully? Or missing it? What were the causes?