Agile Leadership…It’s about the Flow

One question Christian Antoine, Scrum Trainer and Coach, frequently hears from leadership as an organization begins their Agile journey is “Does Agile or Scrum require an organization restructure?”

No Agile framework prescribes if organizations should be structured or not.  In striving for agility, most companies state their goal as beating the competition in speed to market or to retain their foothold in that market. Organizational agility means consistently responding to those market forces and gaining desired outcomes in complex environments.  Agile organizations can “turn on a dime, for a dime” because they are able to process information faster.

Consider the following in your organization:

  • How fast does information flow through the organization?
  • Is the information unfiltered? Accurate?
  • How long does it take your organization to process new information?
  • How fast can your organization respond to new information and gain the desired outcome?

Any entity (individual or organization) that is able to flow information in response to an event and process it the fastest wins.  This is similar to a pilot’s decision cycle of Observe, Orient, Decide and Act developed by military strategist and U.S. Air Force Colonel John Boyd.  The pilot who goes through the OODA Loop in the shortest time prevails in air-to-air combat because their opponent is caught responding to situations that have already changed.

Colonel Boyd was dubbed “Forty Second Boyd” for his standing bet that he could defeat any opposing pilot in air combat maneuvering in less than 40 seconds beginning from a position of disadvantage.  Boyd breaks down the cycle into the four, interrelated and overlapping processes to be cycled through continuously:

  • Observation: the collection of data by means of the senses
  • Orientation: the analysis and synthesis of data to form one’s current mental perspective
  • Decision: the determination of a course of action based on one’s current mental perspective
  • Action: the physical playing-out of decisions

Boyd emphasized that this decision cycle is the central mechanism enabling adaptation (apart from natural selection) and is critical to survival. Sounds familiar when we consider Scrum’s Transparency, Inspect and Adapt doesn’t it?

If your organization’s hierarchy or structure impedes the ‘flow of information’, this will be exposed by adopting any Agile approach.  If restructuring will speed up the flow of information, it may be something for leadership to consider but it is not necessarily required.

Want to learn more?  Join Christian’s upcoming Certified Scrum Master course here: