xScion Blog

Top-down + Bottom-up = Permanence

Jun 24, 2019

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When undertaking an Agile transformation true leadership is necessary to get interdependent teams, business units, and other organizational layers bought in and working together. Executive level leadership can be a great starting point and buy-in at that level is necessary, but a top-down approach can fizzle out without buy-in at all levels. A bottom-up approach can gain traction, but without getting the upper levels on board, that will fizzle out too. The key, and theme for the on-demand webinar How to Lead Enterprise Agile, is to focus on all layers of an organization for a successful Agile transformation.

 

Curtis Carlson, former CEO of the noted technical innovation and research firm SRI, says about innovation, “top down innovation is orderly but dumb and bottom up innovation is chaotic but smart”. The same holds for organizational change as new processes and methods are innovations themselves. The above, informally known as Carlson’s Law, can come about because top-down changes are often not informed by on-the-ground operating realities. The top-level leaders have the authority and ability to carry out the necessary steps (orderly innovation), but don’t have a full information set (dumb innovation). The opposite holds true for bottom-up innovation. It is grounded in operational reality (smart) but lacks established processes (chaotic).

 

How to Lead Enterprise Agile addresses strategies to establish true Agile leadership at every layer of an organization necessary to drive the cultural shift that powers Agile transformation. xScion COO Mason Chaudry and Agile expert Bhavani Krishnan point out that Agile transformation efforts often fall flat when there isn’t enough buy-in from the middle layers of an organization. Solutions involve creating a team of internal champions that includes members from every level of the organization. This allows for the transformation to start gradually as new methods take root. Small victories can then be used to build momentum that eventually leads to true Agile transformation. In this way, Krishnan notes, “top-down plus bottom-up lead to permanence” as the authority to influence change aligns with the true sense of operations on the ground.

 

How to Lead Enterprise Agile does not provide a “one-size fits all” approach to leadership and organizational change, but instead shares a variety of best practices gleaned from years of experience working with commercial, nonprofit, and government organizations. They key takeaway is that successful Agile transformation requires effective leadership at all levels of an organization. Watch the on-demand webinar for a lively discussion and real-world tips.

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