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Is the next business buzzword metabolism?

What is organisational metabolism? In business, it translates to the system that converts assets, including money, people, and time into customer value, ideally while minimising senseless waste or cost (e.g. bureaucracy).

Technically speaking metabolism is the chemical process — mainly food breakdown and transfer of nutrient to cells — that occurs within a living organism to maintain life. One can have fast or slow metabolism, somewhat akin to the speed an organisation may work at, or the amount of fat it may carry.

iTWire spoke to Angela Tucci, general manager of Agile Management at CA Technologies, joining from recently acquired Rally Software.

In her current role at CA, Angela leads the Agile, PPM and Service Management groups, as well as supporting CA in its Agile Transformation.

“Existing practices of just working harder than the competition will not cut it. We face a new reality that customers expect continuous updates and innovations to what they want and need—especially for anything that's digitally enabled,” Tucci said.

CA Angela Tucci

According to Tucci metabolism is the right word and it is not meant to be a buzzword. “Agility has become a buzzword. I do not care if something is called “Agile” in a capital-A way. What I do care about is applying lean concepts such as inspect and adapt, limit work in process, and eliminate waste. I care about how to leverage today’s best practices in product development to accelerate market responsiveness by increasing something I call “organisational metabolism.

“Organisations need to shed their sluggish metabolism in favour of fleet-of-foot 21st-century business, to rapidly deliver value. They can do this by developing the people, processes, and tools that increase metabolism within their companies. Without adopting a new way of working, companies will miss market opportunities while competitors race ahead, leaving customers open to exploring alternative solutions,” she said.

Tucci provided five ways to increase metabolism – in her words

1. Have a clear and aspirational vision

Having clearly defined outcomes — both for your business and in your company’s agile transformation — is vital because an agile mentality means being comfortable with change. While tasks and tactics will shift, the ultimate vision should remain as the True North. Every company is different, but needs to have a vivid picture of its overall purpose and the desired outcome: What is the outcome I care about and what am I asking people to go and do? A clear vision will help guide the practices that need to be implemented as changes in the external market and internal operations fluctuate.

2. Consider the culture

To attract and retain the best people, you’ve got to create an environment in which they can thrive. A thriving environment is one in which the employee population is motivated, empowered and follows best practices that deliver value. Leaders need to ask: How am I helping my front line? They are the listening posts, the ones engaging with customers. Empowering the front line makes it easier for organisations to sense and adapt to change. Top-down control organisations are slowly becoming the dinosaurs, and organisations that adopt cultural change that empowers the front line and provides productive feedback loops will be the ones that succeed. Moreover, leaders must lead by example. Too often leaders will expect their employees to implement agile practices without changing their own behaviours.

3. Rethink your processes

Many of the processes and systems we use in business were created decades ago under the guise of automating standard business processes. But these standard business processes were built on adaptations of high-volume manufacturing of physical items. As companies improve their organisational metabolisms, leaders need to rethink what processes and systems are carried forward from the 20th century that may not be serving fast responses required today.

4. Find the right tools

The right tools will amplify leadership and vision, removing the friction that too often hinders transformation. Tools reinforce good processes and behaviours, quantify the desired outcomes and help the team make the right adjustments. Even the most millennial company on the planet would have slow metabolism if it used antiquated tools and systems. 

5. Be open to fail (aka learn and adapt)

Employees should not feel like they will lose their jobs if they take a smart risk and fail. This should seem obvious but actually isn’t for most companies. Some amount of failure is inevitable when you are fundamentally changing the culture, processes, and structures of an organisation; this is the basis of innovation. Calculated risks should be encouraged in modern companies. The important thing is to learn from those mistakes and get smarter. Test and learn, not perfection, is the new mantra.

Header image courtesy of Traffic specialising in brand metabolism.

 

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

 

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