“In Syngineering, Bill Zybach, Richard Thayer, and Monique Carnino have provided us with the grounded, field-tested tools and descriptions that we need to help organizations become adaptable. The concept of organizational agility is maturing. A variety of researchers have begun to coalesce around the definition of agility and its characteristics. While there are still a few wrinkles, myths, and misconceptions to work out, a clearer picture is emerging. What is not clear is how to make the transformation from a traditional organization to an agile one. What’s needed are more cases and examples of the processes of organizational redesign that demonstrate the challenges. That is exactly what the authors of Syngineering deliver.”
– Chris Worley, Research Professor of Management, Pepperdine University and Senior Research Scientist, USC’s Center for Effective Organizations, co-author of The Agility Factor, Built to Change
Aligning the Components of the Business Model
We collaboratively adjust the following components to achieve better alignment between the organization’s strategy, landscape and culture in order to deliver desired outcomes:
- Directions are the purpose, mission, strategy, and strategic objectives
- Technology includes equipment and software that enables the organization to deliver on their strategy
- Work encompasses the core activities of the organization, how competitive value is created, process flows and hand-offs
- People takes in how many with what skills and competencies, including inter personal behaviors and capabilities and leadership styles
- Structure includes governance and distribution of power, reporting, roles and responsibilities, locations, and coordination
- Systems include management monitors and controls, HR systems to align and reward people’s efforts, and financial and reporting systems
- Culture is the entirety of unwritten rules, behavioral norms, and resulting actions of those that work within the organization
Syngineering: Addressing Changing Circumstances
Syngineering, the framework we’ve developed for aligning these components, involves enGINEERING how an organization will sense and respond to changes in its environment through its visible structures and systems and by using less visible, but equally critical, human dynamics (SYNergies) such as collaborative design thinking, integrated teams, and agile leadership. We believe this blend provides a competitive edge to continuously learn, adapt and evolve. Our Syngineering framework has been successfully applied across a wide range of company situations and sizes; it is proven and scalable.
We provide our own consulting tools and techniques as part of this framework to shift an organization to meet its strategic needs, and we can use existing tools and techniques in the organization to do this work. We make explicit the roles of business environment and strategy in shaping culture. We tailor our change approach to match the existing organizational culture first when smoothly transitioning to a new one. We engage and involve leadership and staff throughout the design and change process, so that change management is woven into the fabric of the work itself and not just bolted on. We apply well-known agile principles and values to achieve sustainable client-driven solutions and embedded agile ways of working.
Syngineering: The Agility Cycle Applied to Organizations
Our early training exposed us to the Gestalt cycle of experience, which describes a pattern or configuration of components so unified as a whole that it cannot be described merely as a sum of its parts. At the individual level, it says we are constantly Sensing our environment for the data we need to survive and thrive. We then Mobilize our resources and lay high level plans to meet our needs or address issues. We then Frame and test possible solutions to the issues, choose one, and then formulate actions that will move us in that direction. We Customize our chosen solution to the specific circumstances and take action. We implement the solutions, Resolve the tension, close things out, and return to Sensing in the new equilibrium. We have then applied this same concept at the organization level to create more agile organizations.
- Sense: Agile organizations sense their environment in any number of ways. They gather information about the external landscape from their customers, competitors, and industry sources. They assess their performance, evaluate how well they are realizing their strategy, and determine whether their current organizational configuration best supports these. As they identify tensions and issues, they determine whether, when, and how to move into action.
- Mobilize: Here the leadership function, regardless of where it sits on the spectrum from hierarchical to shared, actually moves the organization to action. Leaders map out what needs to happen, commit resources to do it, refine the strategy, then diagnose what else needs to change along with criteria to be used. They may assign existing staff or work groups, or they may create new configurations to get it done.
- Involve: The designated accountable staff draw on the experiences, insights, and expertise of a broad range of employees close to the work, not just a few experts or senior level managers. They design workshops, focus groups, online communication and feedback vehicles, and pilots or prototypes to involve enough employees to ensure all relevant information is available and considered.
- Frame: The accountable staff then evaluate the core work and test possible high-level solutions to the issues typically revolving around the organization’s operating model. They settle on a common picture and identify who needs to be involved in taking action in that direction.
- Customize begins the actions to converge on the common picture across the entire enterprise. Each work group applies the high-level solutions and operating model to their specific circumstances. This often involves revising workflows, roles, accountabilities, working relationships, and supporting systems.
- Resolve completes the cycle, ensures the tensions are addressed, and returns the organization to sensing. Design thinking, which seeks meaningful and sustainable solutions, is a key feature throughout the cycle but especially in this stage. Where there is continuous sensing, solutions need not be perfect, just good enough to address the immediate issues.
By setting up the organization to more naturally complete the cycle each time a change is needed while continuously learning and improving, we are positioning the organization to be able to achieve its strategy regardless of the landscape or environment. We have captured how to do this work in a detailed do-it-yourself guidebook for practitioners titled Syngineering: Building Agility into Every Organization.