Balancing Strategy, Agility, Operational Excellence, and Innovative Transformation

By Christy Johnson

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Balancing Strategy, Agility, Operational Excellence, and Innovative Transformation

Our strategies do – and should – constantly change. But does your team get discouraged about putting a plan down on paper, because they feel like it’s just going to change direction in 6 months?

A lot of our customers look to us for advice about how to help their teams feel aligned and dedicated to achieving targets without feeling like they’re pulling the rug out from under them with every short-term sprint.

It’s a fine line to walk between being responsive, but also creating organization-wide commitment, understanding, and buy-in to reach goals.

It’s the balancing act between 1) organizational agility, 2) operational excellence, and 3) holistic resource allocation. You need to be able to do all three simultaneously and effectively to propel your organization forward, while keeping your employees aligned and in tune with company goals.

As AchieveIt helps more and more organizations execute faster with better results, I’m exposed to best practices from every industry, use case, and company size. Unfortunately, the variance in just this sample size proves there’s no one solution that works for absolutely every team. But there are some common threads that I see, that we at AchieveIt also practice.

Organizational Agility Doesn’t Mean Foregoing Strategy

Borrowed from primarily software development teams, the idea of “agile” business tactics focus on rallying members around tangible goals. While your scrum master may be gritting their teeth since we’re not talking about the pure Agile Methodology, organizations have adapted the idea to implement smaller wins along the way to maintain momentum across a larger plan.

That’s the thing – shorter term goals should never replace the importance of an overarching strategy. An article in HBR talks about fluid strategy in terms of the union between two concepts: vision and improvisation.

“Vision incorporates the long-term, if not permanent, purpose and principles of an organization, which serves as the north star for all its actions. Improvisation suggests a fundamental openness and flexibility at the tactical level – the willingness to explore, experiment, and iterate. When you incorporate both into strategy creation, it becomes a transformative event rather than a long-winded process; it’s a thick experience rather than a thorough exercise.”

So yes – companies benefit from setting up sprints, but they should always align to and support an overarching plan. Our own Joe Krause’s article explains how to be protective of your plan without losing the ability to improvise.

Operational Excellence Must Be Maintained Alongside Innovation

A lot of times, the first thing we do when our professional services team goes into an organization is sort out their strategies from their operational plans. These two kinds of plans often get muddled in reality, even though we understand their differences conceptually (here’s how to tell them apart).

What I see as the key to being able to remain agile and responsive, is having tight processes. It’s so important to separate innovative plans from plans that help you do what you already do (but better). They should be executed and measured apart from one another.

Both are necessary to move forward, but you can’t dedicate all your time to one and not the other; pure innovation has no process, and pure perfection has no frame-breaking outcomes (read about that balance here).

Holistic Resource Allocation Helps You De-Dupe Efforts

This may sound rudimentary, but I cannot emphasize enough what so many organizations are missing – cross-plan visibility.

When you’re looking at plans and results in separate systems, it’s impossible to connect where and how initiatives may be related, where work or resources might be duplicated, or how multiple efforts are contributing to a single goal. Work may be repeated, budgets double-dipped, and time lost if you can’t see how all plan items roll up to support your company’s vision.

Organizations that are able to gain this high-level insight into the way their plans are progressing find it easier to execute equally on the constant betterment of their processes, as well as new innovative strategies. And, because they have dashboards that show how all these plans work together, are able to make better, faster, more-informed decisions about how and when to pivot.

Contact Us

If your team needs help balancing agile business practices with operational excellence and distributing resources, call us so we can talk about what your best practices are and how AchieveIt can make your life easier.