Cultural transformation: Agile approach as the guide

Cultural transformations seem to be Mount Everest of HR. Going from a traditional organisation to an agile one involves much more than learning new dynamics, procedures and tools. It concerns changing the organisational culture, i.e. new symbols, signs and behaviours.

This is easy to say, as access to theory is just one click away. However, in practice, what can we specifically do to implement the changes?

When we don’t know what to do, we need to look around us and share the best practices of those who have ventured to changes and have succeeded.

A study conducted by McKinsey, published in October 2017, which included companies from different areas and regions, highlights the need to understand the type of organisation from which to start the best way forward to agility. A very bureaucratic company and one that reinvents the wheel every month require different changes, but these modifications are equally necessary. Achieving agility means finding balance between dynamism and stability.

According to the authors of the study, “Dynamic practices enable companies to respond nimbly and quickly to new challenges and opportunities, while stable practices cultivate reliability and efficiency by establishing a backbone of elements that don’t need to change frequently.”

Companies that have achieved this balance, such as Google, Amazon, Patagonia, Virgin, and platforms such as Airbnb, Uber, Up work, the meaning of being agile in how they adjust to the mindset that enables adapting to the digital era and its requirements. These companies focus on the needs of customers, both external and internal, and set their culture to meet those needs.

From Machine to Living Organism Structure: Changing the paradigm

The old model of business success, established by Henry Ford in the early 20th century, in which the company operated as an efficient and specialised machine, corresponds to the era of industrialisation and the environment it created.

Entering the digital and information era brought instability and constant change. Now, more than ever, we put the Darwinian evolutionary theory to the test, understanding that organisations that do not adapt do not survive.

Those that have been successful sailing this sea of uncertainty are those that have incorporated the following characteristics:

  • Strategy:
  • Vision and purpose shared by all members of the organisation
  • Ability to detect opportunities and make the most of them
  • Flexibility when investing resources
  • Structure:
  • Flat and clear structures
  • Clear roles with high degrees of accountability
  • Open spaces and virtual environments
  • Active leadership and daily involvement in teams
  • Teams dedicated to specific projects focused on results
  • Processes:
  • Fast iterations and constant experimentation
  • Standardised forms of work
  • Transparency in information and communication
  • Continuous learning
  • Action-oriented decision-making
  • People:
  • United community
  • Shared and attentive leadership
  • Entrepreneurial motivation
  • Role mobility
  • Technology:
  • Constantly changing technological architecture, systems and tools
  • Development and application of cutting-edge technologies

Transforming into an agile culture must start from an in-depth analysis of the current situation, by identifying opportunities for organisational improvement and adopting those practices that will enable evolution towards a place that is valuable to customers, people and, hopefully, the society to which the organisation belongs.