Your Organization’s Agility Is Up to You

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Change Is a Given.
How Your Organization Responds Is Up to You.
Change Is Inevitable.
Your Organization’s Agility Is Up to You.

A guest blog by Melissa Boggs, Chief Scrum Master (Co-CEO) at Scrum Alliance

I recently attended a leadership class. As is normal, we began the class by going around the room and introducing ourselves. We stated our name, our organization, our role, and what brought us to the class.

“Hi, I’m Susan. I’m the Director of HR at Company X. My company is going through a lot of change right now, and I’m looking to grow my leadership skills to help through the change.”

“Hello, I’m Jim. I’m the CEO of Company Y. We are introducing a lot of change, and I want to better help the org through the change.”

“Hi there, I’m Karen. I’m Director of HR at Company Z. We are going through so much change, and we have been… for years. I just need to know how to help my employees in this time of change.”

During these introductions, it struck me that every single person who introduced themselves said something similar. We are all experiencing change, introducing change, managing change, working through change. What surprised me is that we introduce this fact as if it is unique somehow All organizations change. So why is it, then, that change seems to come as such a surprise to us?

At the heart of the agile movement is the notion that the only constant in life, and especially in business, is change. Organizations are like organisms, constantly changing and evolving in response to their environments. If we do not evolve, we do not survive – and we certainly do not thrive. The only way to thrive in a constantly changing environment is to build our organizations in such a way that we can listen closely and respond quickly–in other words, we need to enable sustainable agility throughout the organization. For many, this means approaching structure, culture, policy, and people in a new and radical way.


In my years of consulting, my observation is the two biggest structural barriers to an organization’s ability to adapt are deep hierarchy and complex cross-department dependencies. Any situation where a team is constantly waiting for someone else creates a fragile and unmovable organization. In order to build an organization that can adapt and embrace change, we need to create structures that support autonomous decision making and minimize dependencies. Scrum specifically calls for cross-functional teams, that have everything they need to deliver to their customers with minimal impediments or waiting.


I define culture as the traditions, habits, and behaviors. Certain cultural elements can either make or break our agility as an organization, including hero culture, single points of failure, and rewarding output over outcomes. By creating a culture where employees are deeply invested in creating value for customers and through creating a workplace of collaboration and creativity, we set ourselves up to listen and move when necessary. 


Like organizations themselves, policies must be flexible. It is not enough to write a handbook and allow it to become stagnant. It’s not enough to write a travel policy or a code of conduct and assume it is good forever. We need to build in the ability to constantly evaluate and iterate on policies in response to change. The agile manifesto says “Individuals and Interactions over processes and tools.” That is, while we value processes and tools, we value individuals and interactions more. We should build the minimal amount of policy necessary to protect the organization, provide guardrails for employees, and still allow us to thrive in the face of change.


In a world of constant change, deep and isolated skills are not nearly as valuable as flexible growth mindset. Menlo Innovations, world-renowned for their joyful culture, does not hire people because they are deep experts in a certain language, but rather because they have a deep aptitude for learning. Or as Menlo co-founder Richard Sheridan puts it, “With the right culture, acquiring skills is not all that difficult, in comparison to having the right attitude and mindset.”

A recent HBR article affirmed this approach by asserting that experience does not predict a new hire’s success. This deeply shakes long-held beliefs that a resume is a good indicator of a person’s potential in our organization. Instead, we should develop hiring practices that allow us to find the right mindset, aptitude, and hunger for learning that equip us to take on anything. We should develop feedback and recognition programs that highlight these and amplify them as well. (You can read my company’s own experiment in hiring here.)

Everything and everyone is changing, and constantly. We do not live in the same world as our parents or grandparents. It is time that we embrace change as a way of life and build organizations that are adaptive and agile, so that they not only survive, but thrive in this brave new world.

Hi. I’m Melissa Boggs, Chief Scrum Master at Scrum Alliance. I’m here because I recognize that our organization will always be in a state of change, and I want to maximize that to our benefit.

Join Melissa and the Scrum Alliance team at The HR Congress Nice this November! Melissa will present a session in the Talent & Culture Track entitled The Stories We Tell Ourselves – The Power of Storytelling and Cultural Change, and will also chair the Organization & Leadership Track in the Scrum Alliance theatre.

Scrum Alliance is a proud of sponsor of The HR Congress 2019!

The 4th HR Congress Nice, November 19-20 will feature a selection of sessions that will explore this topic and much more! Follow the HR Congress Blog for more interesting ideas and content from around the world of work! And don’t forget to subscribe to The HR Congress Podcast!

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