We’ve covered the shifting health and human market landscape—and the shift to “value” (see Unpacking Four Major Forces Driving Industry Trends In Behavioral Health and Has The Time Come To Embrace Emerging Value-Based Opportunities). Our work with organizations in the field has found there are three market truisms: First, organizational sustainability is a function of organizational performance. Second, customer definitions of performance are constantly changing—and the benchmarks for “good” performance are constantly reset by new and disruptive competitors. Third, sustainability requires organizations to continuously and systematically respond to market developments.
That ability to respond to market developments is the classic definition of an agile organization—one that reacts successfully to the emergence of new competitors, rapid advancements in technology, and sudden shifts in overall market conditions. This “need for speed” has been a theme of many of my previous articles about culture change (see ‘Agile Innovation’ Needed For The Challenges Ahead and The Shape Of Innovation To Come).
Is your organization agile? That sounds like a simple question; but when I ask it, many executives don’t know what an agile organization looks like, nor how it should operate. It takes more than just saying you move quickly. I found a great operational definition of the agile organization in a new white paper, Performance Management In Agile Organizations:
…agile organizations are designed for both stability and dynamism. They are made up of a network of teams within a people-centered culture that features rapid learning and fast decision cycles enabled by technology and guided by a powerful common purpose to concrete value for all stakeholders.
How are agile organizations managed? There are five “trademarks” and three performance management practices of an agile organization that you can use to assess whether your organization is agile. First, the five trademarks:
Leadership that embodies agility across the organization—Your organization needs a leader who can set direction and priorities (i.e., set the “vision”), keep the organization’s strategy moving forward, and drive the team to respond with their own fast-paced objectives. Leaders can establish an agile culture by modeling behavior from the top down (see Managing Change as a Leader’s Challenge and Chamberlain At Gettysburg: Lessons In Decisive Leadership).
A network of empowered teams—An empowered team is one that has “end-to-end accountability and a clear purpose.” Extensive approval processes, managers without decisonmaking power, and a lack of understanding about responsibilities and priorities will hinder progress. Organizational hierarchies need to be flatter, with little or no middle management to slow down the decisionmaking process and execution of the vision. (see Managing at the Speed of Change: What Does It Take to Be Nimble? and Speed Is The New Management Competency).
Rapid decision and learning cycles—Organizations need the ability to make decisions, “fail fast,” and then quickly adapt so that performance can quickly (and continually) improve (Understand Your Data, Make Decisions Quickly & Fail Fast and 3 Steps To Competing On Performance).
A dynamic people model that ignites passion—At the heart of all successful change management is a culture that empowers staff to be agile in their work. Executive teams need to work hard to build a culture that embraces change, rewards risk, and encourages innovation. An organization where people are afraid to share ideas, don’t feel valued, and can’t take pride in their accomplishments will defeat the best laid plans and make agility a impossible task (see Is Your Culture Performance-Driven? Take The Test; Is Your Organization Innovative…Or Do You Just Think You Are?; and Culture Will Trump Strategy Every Time).
Next-generation-enabling technology—No conversation about agility or speed is complete without an investment in the tech that can make it all happen at scale. Organizations need to create an infrastructure that includes the tools and supports necessary for real-time, data-driven decisionmaking and give teams the training and supports they need to focus on performance (see Building A Technology Infrastructure For Value-Based Care: Tech To Support Performance Management; Bot, Anyone? The Question-What Services Can You Automate?; and Add ‘Speed’ To Your Treatment Tech Planning List).
These are significant changes in leadership, process, hierarchy, and culture for many health and human service organizations. And, executives in this environment need to embrace three performance management practices to keep up with a changing market:
Linking goals to business priorities—This cuts to the heart of any performance initiative. In an agile organization, the only way to keep the whole enterprise focused on the same performance goals is to operate with a high level of transparency (clear performance targets) and team objectives that keep everyone’s eyes on the same prize.
Investing in coaching tools—It’s not good enough that leadership has a clear vision. That vision must be translated for the team into actionable insights, while the leader also prepares the team for the necessary performance. This means an investment on feedback tools, ongoing training/development, and a metrics-based focus on performance evaluations.
Differentiating individual performance—Even with a complete focus on “team performance,” executives must track how individual staff are performing. The goal: evaluate whether each team member has “lived the desired values, mind-sets, and behaviors.”
For health and human service executives, the “agile” mindset is key. And, it boils down to recognizing that change management is now a constant in performance management, requiring quick decision-making, setting clear and transparent performance targets, and then tracking how successful your teams and individual staff members are at “performing.”
For more on change management, check out these resources from the OPEN MINDS Industry Library:
- What Do Today’s Leaders Think About Managing Change?
- Creating and Leading A Team in Times of Change
- Don’t Just Sit There: Change!
- Managing Change as a Leader’s Challenge
- Managing at the Speed of Change: What Does It Take to Be Nimble?
- Bot, Anyone? The Question-What Services Can You Automate?
- Anticipating The Looming Strategic Surprises
- Add ‘Speed’ To Your Treatment Tech Planning List
- Even ‘Change Management’ Is Changing
- Taking The Risk On A New Service
For more on adapting to the fast-paced change in today’s health and human services field, join me on August 14 at The 2019 OPEN MINDS Management Best Practices Institute for my keynote address, The ‘Melting’ Value Chain: Defining Best Practice Management Models In An Era Of Change.