Alignment and agility: prerequisites for complex business ecosystems in a dynamic era
by Lindsay Uittenbogaard & Lukas Michel

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Traditional alignment methodologies and traditional management that were intended for the stable environment have lost their impact. In rapidly emerging complex business ecosystems, sustainable performance requires a comprehensive alignment of people and parts within an agile design.

For decades now, leaders have been struggling with how to succeed in a VUCA world. Typically, efforts to correct shortfalls and improve performance look at what need to align, such as strategy, structure, skills, and systems. Follow logic A, B, C. Take step 1, 2, 3. In today’s dynamic environments, this approach looks Two Dimensional.

Drucker Forum 2019

At a time when leaders require people in and around their organizations to operate from a shared reality, mainstream attempts can also be described as 2D: generic messaging via one-way mass media communications, Managers sitting uncomfortably in the middle, and collaboration platforms that merely share information.

Individuals need to make sense of things in their own ways to fully understand and take ownership. They need to feel safe and included to participate. They need to be understood and valued to contribute their best. 2D approaches do not accommodate this.

If people don’t have a shared understanding about their context and how to deliver together; they will not perform well or be engaged enough to keep trying. And if their organizations don’t offer an environment that is congruent with the strategy, goals and brand, or adaptable through agile design, then implementation will always lose out to the VUCA forces at play.

Moving into 3D by better connecting individuals and the ecosystem

We’d like to add a ‘D’ to VUCA. D is for Diversity. Getting diverse people to a shared reality involves understanding and accepting different perspectives, building new bridges, and finding enough common ground so small disagreements become insignificant.

Organizations can accommodate diversity when people are included as individuals who can think for themselves to perform. When empowered – and aligned with a context that is agile – people can make better decisions and actions adaptively, which leads to better performance.

Two interdependent approaches enable this congruent, agile ecosystem:

1) Team level alignment: creates a common understanding about what the organizational brand and strategy means to the team in the context of their unique roles and goals (cognitive alignment); and how they will collaborate achieve their shared goals together (behavioural alignment).

2) Agile Design: Unlike the original agile movement, the agile design for the ecosystem starts at the top. It prioritises self-responsibility, self-organisation, stakeholder inclusion, and delegated accountability – all with the client as a central focus. This is a paradigm-shift from traditional leadership, allowing organizations to adapt to change as a whole system.

Fig. 1 Alignment and Agility Across the Ecosystem – Focus Areas, Activities and Outcomes

When people are aligned with each other AND with the agile ecosystem, the organization can adapt, evolve, perform and sustain.

About the Authors:

Lindsay Uittenbogaard is founder of the Mirror Mirror team alignment methodology in the Netherlands.

Lukas Michel is the CEO of Agility Insights AG, Switzerland, founder of Agility Insights and author two books “The Performance Triangle” and “Management Design”.

This article is one in the Drucker Forum “shape the debate” series relating to the 11th Global Peter Drucker Forum, under the theme “The Power of Ecosystems”, taking place on November 21-22, 2019 in Vienna, Austria #GPDF19 #ecosystems


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