Currently, we are assisting several large companies with the transformation of their sales and marketing departments into real customer-oriented and agile organisations. Inspired by companies such as Spotify, ING and Eneco, a growing number of organisations have come to realise that organising and managing work and people according to the traditional organisational model may have been a good idea 120 years ago but that times have changed, requiring different paradigms.
In many companies, the organisational model is perceived as a hindrance rather than a help to get things done. And that can’t be the idea behind good tools… Two objectives are primordial in our new way of thinking, namely increasing customer focus and also working in a more results-oriented manner. Increasing customer focus by developing a vision, objectives and processes around customers. Results-oriented by replacing the silo mentality with adequate multidisciplinary teams with a mandate. Both aspects require the organisation (structure, processes and competences) to be redesigned but, above all, rely on management to change its mindset.
There are usually one or two believers in organisations that undergo such a transformation. They understand and embrace this new way of working.
And therein lies the challenge for the future. Because today’s managers were created in a different world. Today’s bosses forged their careers in a world defined by a uniform chain of command – in accordance with the sacrosanct traditional organisational model. A world in which a management position was more prestigious than an executive position. A world in which the customer’s place was at the end of the chain. In which faith in controls was more important than trusting employees. It is those managers that now need to make the switch. We have observed that there are usually one or two believers in organisations that undergo such a transformation. They understand and embrace this new way of working. The other executives tend to adopt a more cautious approach, proposing several compromises and models under which “they” must become more agile and “we” must stick to proven methods. But desperate times call for desperate measures. Either you do things right or you don’t do anything at all.
Agile working does not just mean sending people to a scrum training and hoping that everything will work out from the first time. Agile should not just be applied on the work floor (the whole company needs to get on board). In our view, agile only makes sense if you base yourself on a very specific and customer-oriented vision. Setting clear, strategic customer missions for every (agile) team. That are underpinned by the sincere intention to create added value for customers. These synchronised missions will energise teams, making them more autonomous, so they can constantly devise and implement the right solutions.
Agile working does not just mean sending people to a scrum training and hoping that everything will work out from the first time.
So what does this mean for management more specifically? Abandoning managerial control in favour of a more directive approach. A setting in which customer-driven, multidisciplinary teams can and will do the right thing. And obviously there needs to be some guidance, but management must play a more facilitating and involved role, rather than being distant and controlling. The traditional planning and control cycles also require a fresh – and more experimental – approach. And reflection on the new “flex work” model, which, in practice, conflicts with agile working in a team. Everything is really different. This requires managers in 2017 to reorganise their organisations, as well as themselves. As football coach Louis Van Gaal once famously said, “That is another cook!” or a different story.
Interested in a good discussion and some practical advice about leadership in an agile world? Then speak to your contact at VODW or contact Maton Sonnemans.