“Agile” has become the new mantra nowadays. But has it caught fire faster than organizations are prepared to keep it burning? It seems that some are even “burning out” in the fire already. And many, even Agile coaches, are feeling frustrated. Not because they don’t like their job or because they are not convinced in the new way of working, rather because some key elements to creating an Agile mindset in their organizations are missing. My work and conversations with employees of several large organizations in the financial, insurance and telecommunications industry reveal that strategic resilience is the most crucial factor in achieving superior results in an Agile environment.

5 main challenges that seem to be in the way:

  1. The lack of enough personal resilience among employees and leaders. This makes it very difficult to develop the strategic resilience needed for Agility and business reinvention.
  2. Agile methods are often quickly being “adapted” in a patchwork manner to existing hierarchical processes in organizations. Thus, they fail to deliver the expected efficiency and effectiveness. Especially, in larger, more traditional organizations, agile teams or initiators are still lonely islands. They lack the resources and support on a larger scale and this saps their resilience tremendously – both on individual and team level.
  3. No adequate time for preparation (“Agility pre-phase”) is allocated. Preparing the team to work in an Agile environment, including clearing interpersonal and personal challenges or conflicts is essential for the successful implementation.
  4. The misleading myth that “going Agile” means that fewer people can deliver more work is still around. When those “few” are also not adequately trained to be mentally stronger and fitter for the new tasks, the hard landing is almost guaranteed.
  5. Agile projects are being started without valuing and allocating the time for ongoing facilitation and team development. This includes crucial steps like
  • Holding good quality Retrospectives – for adjusting and adapting the process on time
  • Ongoing service leadership for the team members in order to support them do their work efficiently

5 solutions for boosting strategic resilience:

  1. Boost the resilience skills of your team with professional measurement and development measures – both on personal and team level. It is a very effective way to prepare them for the Agility shift and address many if not all of the above issues because:
  • it significantly contributes to creating a psychologically safe environment in a team and thus can noticeably improve collaboration, trust, team spirit, and team effectiveness;
  • most needed qualities like emotional stability and the ability to handle ambiguity without losing focus are enhanced which leads to better performance;
  • the overall ability to deal with negative customer’s feedback, setbacks or unexpected errors and issues grows exponentially;
  1. Self-organization needs resilient leadership. Do you measure and develop the resilience of your leaders? Aware resilient leaders can shape and strengthen the organizational culture with greater impact. They are more compassionate in motivating employees to join the Agility ride wholeheartedly. Senior leadership plays a very important role here as it should be the catalyst for Agility advocates.
  1. Make sure that Agility advocates and experts (e.g. Scrum Masters, Agile Coaches, and Product Owners) are trained to be resilient and stress-resistant to handle ongoing challenges effectively. They are the closest to the team and their role is crucial for maintaining the overall team resilience.
  1. Maintain stability for agility. As pointed out in an insightful McKinsey article, “truly agile organizations, paradoxically, learn to be both stable (resilient, reliable, and efficient) and dynamic (fast, nimble, and adaptive). To master this paradox, companies must design structures, governance arrangements, and processes with a relatively unchanging set of core elements—a fixed backbone. At the same time, they must also create looser, more dynamic elements that can be adapted quickly to new challenges and opportunities.”

In our resilience training methodology, consulting and coaching work, we address exactly these aspects of stability and agility looking at the whole system. For example, well- defined roles and streamlined decision making structures in a team provide a stable framework that allows for more focused and agile steps of action by each team member than a setting in which nobody feels accountable, or only the boss decides.

  1. Bring it to the next level – start boosting the teams’ strategic resilience capabilities. This is achieved when they develop a stronger ability to continually keep anticipating and adjusting to trends and changes and thrive in turbulent times, rather than be paralyzed by them. True business renewal and reinvention thrives from the position of strength, self-confidence, and awareness, and not from fear.

Are you experiencing similar challenges? Or have you managed to create a healthy and happy Agile culture in your team or organization already? How does this influence your results? Share or comment below.