Agile & Digital / Matrix Management

Do we care about agile any more?

A few short weeks ago we were receiving a lot of interest in our training in agile leadership. Agile was everywhere. Companies were preferring face-to-face co-located teams and encouraging stand up morning meetings. That way of working already seems a world away, in selecting the image to go with this blog I almost felt uncomfortable with the photo of all those people sitting in one room.

As we head into an inevitable global recession, what will be our appetite for agility and flexibility?

In 2009 we experienced a large increase in demand from companies wanting to build matrix management skills as their businesses needed to become more integrated, to share resources and reduce costs.

In almost every case this led to a period of increased centralization.

Unsurprisingly, after a decade spent pursuing global scale, global projects and global systems, these organizations started to experience lower levels of local flexibility. Be careful what you wish for!

This often happened just at the time that more nimble digital competitors started to nibble around the edges of their businesses.

The agile revolution was, at least in part, a response to a previous decade of centralization. It was a recognition that we needed to be more flexible and more responsive. It often ignored the substantial benefits of previous developments such as common systems and global product rationalisation

So, what do we expect for 2021. The economic news is dire and it’s sure that cost savings and an increased need for integration and resource sharing will be high on the agenda.

At the same time, we will need to be able to experiment faster and at lower cost and innovation will be key, particular for organizations where the business model is permanently disrupted.

It’s also very likely that companies will accelerate their digital transformations to develop business capabilities or whole business models that are more resilient when people aren’t available or can’t be mobile.

The trick, of course, is to combine the connectedness and integration of the matrix with the flexibility of agile working and to do all that remotely if needed

However, the two approaches can be uneasy bedfellows. Agile working encourages focus inside the agile team. The matrix creates interconnections and interdependences between teams, which can increase complexity.

It may be a false dichotomy as agile pioneers, like Spotify, accept that their autonomous squads can only function within a flexible matrix of tribes, chapters and guilds that enable the other functions of an agile organization to work effectively.

Let’s hope that we don’t throw out the benefits of agile in a rush to recentralize our matrix organizations.

If you would like to find a way to combine the best of both, why not give us a call?

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