Finding Organizational Flow (Part 9 of the Agile Leadership Engagement Series)

Becoming an organization with agility at its core will require a natural pull and flow between leadership and product teams. Especially as companies grow larger, this conduit between the organizational vision created by senior leadership, strategic planning by mid-level leaders, and the product vision created by the product owner has a tendency to become smaller and smaller, slower and slower, or doesn’t exist at all any more to the point of varying degrees of organizational dysfunction.

With the last post of the series, I’ll share a few thoughts on how we can begin to build a free-flowing partnership between leadership layers and product teams.

The communication conduit often clogs at mid-level leaders. The strategic vision does not reach the teams and if it does, the vision has been filtered to a point where it no longer resonates or inspires. Insight into user needs and potential product features found during discovery from the product teams only reaches so far into the visioning exercise or doesn’t happen at all.

To function with business agility we will need to see an unwavering level of responsiveness to changing business and market conditions. It will also require a resilient level of trust and respect to attempt new things and build on ideas from every corner of the company.Finding Organizational Flow through Leadership Partnership

To ultimately make the level of nimbleness and adaptability necessary to be competitive I believe, as others do, organizations of the future will need to be less hierarchical than they are today. But until that day arrives, here are a few starting points to consider:

Focus outward. Redirecting our energy towards our customers will require a bit of selflessness. It will mean being generous with each other, primarily through learning how to really listen to one another. Instead of being the hoarder of information, our first response when new data, theories, and ideas arrive should be “who should know this?” Become a radiator of information to all.

Learn how to resolve conflict. As we all know, there will be different opinions and beliefs on what features will best meet our customers needs. All one needs to know about how innovative an organization is can be gauged by how they work through these conflicts. From the Denma Translation of the Art of War, “This is not simply about bringing the other person over to your side but bringing him or her to something larger than either side.” This is where real innovation and collaboration lives.

Temper the vision with reality. As Thomas Edison said, “Vision without execution is hallucination.” If the vision calls for revolutionary innovation, more investment may be required or serious prioritization must occur during planning. Bring organizational feasibility into the vision by co-creating with mid-level leaders and product owners.

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