Fifty-three percent of the 99 Chief Operating Officers surveyed by PricewaterhouseCoopers agree that organizational agility is critical for corporate growth.
However, only 33% of the 3,950 project managers surveyed by the Project Management Institute indicate that their organizations are increasing their agility. The last few years have stressed the need for more agility and adaptability. So, why aren’t more organizations becoming more agile and adaptable?
“Building a future-focused enterprise means cultivating a bone-deep instinct to shift on demand. And that often requires an overhaul of how companies choose, plan, execute and measure projects.” (Change-Ready and Able: Building Agility into the Organizational DNA, 2022, Project Management Institute)
Increasing people’s talents for agility is the key to building adaptable government agencies. Here are four ways to improve people’s agility both in their work and in teams:
Teams do much of the work in agencies — Even solo contributors occasionally work in teams. For most government employees, teamwork is how they accomplish their best work. Training employees in agile project management is the best way to build the culture and practices needed by government agencies.
Increase trust and psychological safety in teams — Agility and adaptability require employees to trust each other and feel safe trying new things. Trust and psychological safety take time to build, but the process can be sped up by training managers in coaching skills and teams in high-performance skills.
Develop agile communication and collaboration skills — When Google launched Project Aristotle to discover the features of high-performing teams, researchers found two strong team performance norms. The first is that team members had roughly equal amounts of time speaking. The second is that team members are sensitive to the moods of other team members. As a result, communication and collaboration skills are built into high-performance team processes. The good news is that employees can be trained in these skills.
Cross-functional teams break the silos that prevent agility — Flexibility is the key to organizational agility and adaptability. Government organizations, by their nature, are hierarchical, and silos are prevalent throughout agencies. Silos can focus on an organization’s processes and resources, thus making operations more effective. But these same rigid structures can impede the adaptability needed for change. Cross-functional teams can help team members reach across silos and build the networks necessary to confront the change challenge most effectively.
Government agencies are under increasing pressure to become more agile and adaptable. I’ve seen many efforts to improve the agencies’ skills in managing change, including the landmark Program Management Improvement and Accountability Act (PMIAA) of 2015. At the heart of the PMIAA is the focus on increasing employees’ program and project management skills. To be a changemaker in your agency, think of how to improve your project management, communication, collaboration, and personal agility skills. And build your network of like-minded colleagues so you can form the nucleus of change and adaptability in your agency.