Dealing with Uncertainty through Adaptive Certainty

Written by: Gaurav Dhooper (PAL-I®, PMI-ACP®, SAFe4®, CSM®, LSS-GB) | Program Manager, RPA & Agile Practitioner at Genpact | India

Dealing with Uncertainty through Adaptive Certainty using the Personal Agility Light House (PALH™) Model

In order to deal with uncertainty, I would like to draw a typical scenario for business and technical agility to adapt to sudden changes in market conditions as a result of existing product capabilities not supporting future security requirements in financial/banking industry. Applying the seven agilities of the co-founders of AgilityDiscoveriesRaji Sivaraman and Michal Raczka’s PALH™ Model, let me give my perspective on this model.The product development company X needs to incorporate additional security layer to comply with cyber security and financial transaction security requirements mandated by the government where that company operates. The existing product requires a redesign and the ability of the product development company to adapt to this compliance requirement will require additional effort, cost and other resources to meet the business needs. Otherwise the profitability of the company and its customers will be impacted. It will also require new WoW (Ways of Working) and WoT (Ways of Thinking) to incorporate the new design component in a seamless manner. If the product development company had been ready for such a change and created its operating model in such a way to allow unknown process changes naturally, it would have incorporated the new design and its implementation in a much efficient manner. For example it might be through Microservices architecture as compared to a solution provider whose product architecture was tightly coupled.

Education Agility

Education Agility encompasses the adaptability to develop new competencies for future markets and the ability to foster T-shaped skills. It also helps in realizing the unrealized value as a result of exploring new possibilities of growth and outcomes. For improving the performance in the existing state-of-affairs, it requires continuous training and brilliance. When developing a cross-functional Scrum team having the capability to address different type of problems and identifying opportunities to build a business case, the agility demands the ability to solve the problems within the group working towards a common goal. It may require educating and motivating the peers to acquire new technical, professional or behavioral skills so that it builds a culture of constant evolution.

Emotional Agility

During the period of organizational transformation, it is pertinent that people adapt to change organically and thrive which happens only when the purpose and goal are clearly explained by the leaders. Leaders also need to coach people if required and gain the buy-in from the target audience. One of the important values of Scrum process framework is "Respect" which allows Scrum team to build a professional culture and makes the team emotionally intelligent.Emotional agility is to be sharpened in order to achieve futuristic success. Here, we have to consider both current value and unrealised/ future value. The goal of looking at the current value is to maximize the value that an organization delivers to customers and stakeholders at any given time; it considers not only what exists right now, but the value that might exist in the future as well as continuous improvement and continuity is the name of the game in the agile world.

Change Agility

An organization focusing more on predictability will try to minimize and control the changes and will always look for alternatives to avoid the impact on current product capabilities so that cost and effort can be saved as the contract is fixed in nature. Whereas, an adaptable organization will allow such changes to happen in terms of supporting future needs of the business and market through agile contracts to stay competitive, evolve the product capabilities and deliver customer value at a sustainable pace even during the period of uncertainty and ambiguity.

Cerebral Agility

Having constant focus on organizational goals keep the creativity alive and allows the brain to think in a non-linear way by identifying, understanding and commiserating with the customer to come up with quick, clear, precise and to the point solution especially in a ‘out of the box’ situation. Design Thinking approach requires cerebral agility to build human-centric solutions. Cerebral agility helps in achieving higher degree of innovation through idea generation and critical thinking. It ties in with the “Time-to-market” - Expresses the organization’s ability to quickly deliver new capabilities, services, or products. The goal of looking at ‘Time-to-Market’ is to minimize the amount of time it takes for the organization to deliver value.

Political Agility

The aim of political agility is to create an environment of trust and transparency for achieving the organization growth. It also requires changing the existing ways of working, if required to adopt pragmatic approaches to make the process leaner instead of continuing with bureaucratic style of functioning. The benefit of political agility is increased accountability amongst the team working towards a shared goal. An example could be the leadership communication during client interactions for supporting their team’s decisions and approaches for achieving the customer outcomes. To aid to hone political agility, it may be worthwhile to look into the Cynefin framework ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cynefin_framework) shown in the diagram below. It is useful in responding to complex and chaotic problems through sensing the context and helps in avoiding the problems that arise when the preferred style causes to make mistakes. This is a key tool for creating agile leadership and resilient organizations.

Learning Agility

Agility is about learning and adapting which involves experimentation and adjusting the performance empirically to improve the results and impact. The curiosity to learn and improve continuously is the key for improving the outcomes. The learning capability helps in building a good knowledge base and allows better problem solving by evaluating different approaches to identify and decide the best approach.Adaptability to enhance the skillsets in digital world will bring better results in dealing with uncertainty and technological changes. But at the same time measuring the business performance will radically shift from traditional or plan-driven approaches to empirical and evidence-based approaches. It’s not only important to survive but to thrive in the world of uncertainty in order to gain the competitive advantage over others and to improve the quality of sustenance.

Outcomes Agility

In order to maximize the value creation for the customer, one must focus on outcomes and impact. For instance, measuring the business performance in terms of ability to innovate includes the trends of defects reported in software delivery. If the number of code review and functionality defects are decreasing sprint over sprint it shows better ability of the team to innovate. Similarly, reducing the technical debt over time will improve and bring excellence in the delivery. One of the important values of Scrum requires commitment by the team for achieving the Sprint goal as the Sprint events are time-boxed.In essence organizational agility can be better achieved through honing personal agility using the Personal Agility Light House (PALH™) Model - “a segway through adaptability”, agile mindset, growth mindset, business agility, continuous delivery predictability, empiricism, business value delivery, thus achieving ultimate organizational performance.Related: How Agile Performance Accelerates Business Results