How to Invest in Agility

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How agile your enterprise needs to be (meaning how quickly and easily it can do things) depends on what you want it to achieve.  For some of your goals, you’re probably agile enough.  For any with an agility gap, that’s where investment is needed. Goals-driven agility is vital. Simply “becoming more agile”, without knowing why, would be impossible to value, and to decide what investments to make. Agility, in itself, isn’t an investment goal. You need to know which goals your agility is constraining, or may be constraining soon.

Chris Potts, Practitioner, Mentor, Trainer and Author, Dominic Barrow;
Chris will be teaching the course, Advanced Portfolio Management: From Projects-Driven to Goals-Driven Investment in Change4-5 April 2019 in London
This article was originally published here.

Know Your Agility Gaps

For example, which of these goals do you need to achieve quicker or easier than you already can, given your strategy and business plans: grow revenues, reduce costs, increase productivity, develop brand reputation, delight customers, launch new products, energise employees, transform your enterprise structure, maintain legal and regulatory compliance, ensure business continuity, or something not listed (enterprises are usually working with 10-12 persistent goals for investing in change)?

Identify Goal-Specific and Systemic Gaps

Once you know which goals need more agility, next identify which gaps are goal-specific, and which are systemic (that is, impacting multiple goals). For that, you’ll need people who can stand-back from your enterprise’s day-to-day activities, yet know how it all works – operationally, culturally and politically.

Typically, these are your enterprise’s architects, business analysts, and portfolio managers. Architects can look for systemic agility gaps, business analysts for goal-specific ones, and portfolio managers for the ones most worth investing in. At the heart of their work on agility is one enterprise-level view of your goals and portfolio for investing in change (watch this one-minute video: Three Essential Capabilities, One Change Portfolio).

From all the agility options you could possibly invest in, they can identify the ones that would make the right difference, and can realistically work. Then it’s time to define some synchronised investments.

Synchronise People, Technologies and Money

To achieve your enterprise goals, people’s agility is the key to success – mental agility, emotional agility, sometimes physical agility.  That’s why investments in becoming more agile usually involve some mentoring and training, so we can experience the shift in mindset and method we need, to achieve our goals more quickly and easily.

Agile people need similarly agile technologies and money. Your enterprise’s people structure, technologies structure and financial structure must all be as agile as each other. Each change in agility can have people-related, technologies-related, and financial-structure-related elements. Effective investments keep all three in-sync.

Make Macro-Level and Micro-Level Investments in Agility

Success at becoming more agile demands macro- and micro-level perspectives and changes. Macro-level investments deliver the “big-picture” agility your enterprise needs, to keep achieving all of its goals. Micro-level investments make specific activities more agile.

Either macro- or micro-level agility, alone, is not enough. Micro-level agility can scale-up, but that’s unlikely to create the goals-driven and systemic agility your enterprise needs. An agile enterprise is different from the sum of its agile parts. Macro-level agility, on the other hand, needs scaling-down into micro-level changes, to have its positive impact on how things are actually done.

Enterprise agility comes from both scaling-down and scaling-up, and making sure that they “meet in the middle”. It means having one strategy for becoming more agile, with one set of decision-making principles, and one scale-down-and-scale-up approach to agility – or two carefully-synchronised and compatible ones.

Be an Agile Investor in Change

Changes in agility are like any other kind of change you invest in: some will work better than others, and some won’t work at all. How agile your enterprise actually becomes, and how quickly and efficiently, depends on your agility as an investor in change.

Agile investors achieve their goals at the speed they need to achieve them, and with the least-possible risks and resources (see the EIPMM® website:  Their portfolio, investment process and enterprise culture are all similarly agile. They value all agility, including their own, based on its impact on measurable performance.

They invest in a goals-driven portfolio (rather than a projects-driven one – watch this one-minute video: Investing In Your Goals-Driven Portfolio), so they can prioritise their goals, manage portfolio risks, and allocate resources to goals, without having to pre-define every project. They choose new ideas to invest in, and exit underperforming projects, quickly and often.  They can easily channel resources between goals, and between projects, given the latest forecasts of portfolio outcomes.

They have Portfolio Managers whose day-job is driving portfolio performance, and ensuring the enterprise has the agility to achieve the portfolio goals (read this short article: Goals, Probabilities and Agile Investment).  If you could look at the portfolio they manage, you would see the agility in practice (read this short article: You Are What You Invest In).

Measure Success as “Agility as Usual”

The twist in the tale for investing in agility, is that it depends on being an agile investor – being capable of achieving your investment goals as quickly and as easily as you need to.

It means considering your enterprise’s agility as a natural part of managing your change portfolio, and choosing your investments in change, rather than something unusual, specific and separate.

So, however you’re investing in agility at the moment, the ultimate measure of success is that it’s an integral part of “how-we-do-things-around-here”.

Chris works worldwide with Executives, Portfolio Managers and Enterprise Architects, on strategies for Enterprise Investment – achieving organisational excellence at investing in change. He has chaired world-class conferences on innovation, business change, transformation and enterprise architecture, and delivered guest lectures at universities in New York, London, and Copenhagen. Chris is also the author of a trilogy of business novels – “FruITion”, RecrEAtion” and “DefrICtion”- that explore through story-telling the past, present and future of enterprise strategies for investing in change.

Copyright Chris Potts, Practitioner, Mentor, Trainer and Author, Dominic Barrow

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