‘The Agile Organization – Agility-Based Strategy in Practice’ has been recently published, which is the latest book written by Mr. Leo Kerklaan. Besides being an associate partner at Passionned, Leo is an administrator, lawyer and author of several successful management books, including ‘The Organization’s Cockpit’. In honor of publishing his latest book, he talks more about the insights that the book brings up, and he also shares his opinion on the intelligent organization.
Focused on the present time
Congratulations on your new management book! You have a whole series associated with your name. In what sense is the book a complement to your work? “In my career as a management consultant, I have always striven to form a habit to periodically share my experiences on paper. So I create an outline for myself, which is a nice way to share my knowledge. This book is just a typical example. The book is really focused on this present time. This fact requires much more efforts than before, as organizations operate in a much more dynamic environment today.”
Making organizations smarter
How close is the book to the work done by Passionned? “My expertise has been in the very heart of the Passionned Group’s mission, to make organizations smarter, which included good and smart use of business analytics powered by all-round vision and followed by agile work. My book pays much attention to it, as well, in terms of making a good management dashboard tailored to the goals set by the organization. And once the data is collected, a learning structure should also be built up. One chapter was dedicated to the PDCA cycle, a very practical method to quickly implement quality and process improvement in teams and groups. At Passionned, they are aimed to follow training courses. The book is also a stepping stone to new training courses which would teach companies to use the strategy process in full force.”
Changes occur in the capillaries
Did you manage to write this book without all the experience you had gained in recent decades? “Of course, the book would have looked totally different 30 years ago. In the past, the company’s direction and strategy was usually determined by certain specialists, but, today, organizations can do it with the whole management team. On the other hand, the new plans implementation process must ensure that employees can achieve their goals without the necessity to be managed centrally. Today, changes occur in the capillaries of the organization. It is not only my experience, which I used as the base for my book, the subject itself has also forged ahead.”
Your book has four parts. How did you divide it? “As I said, I got down to work and recorded the whole change process, from inception to completion. Then, I followed a logical flow. I started with major contemporary challenges, then kept it on with the design, deployment and implementation of the strategy. Of course, the challenge moves towards achieving the organization’s ambition in these busy and turbulent times. Further, the design should be carefully examined to determine who exactly your customers are. What are we going to do, and for whom?
The strategy must connect it all perfectly. Then comes the deployment, or, as I often call it, ready-to-go version of the strategic plan. Before going to work, combat powers must be well maintained. In terms of an organization, this means that necessary resources must be available in order to achieve its goals. And then, comes the final step, or the actual implementation. This goes gradually, on the way, and ideally in teams that work well with each other and learn from the actions they have taken themselves. ”
Certain classical ideas are actually outdated
Do you see many companies that can benefit from what you describe in the book in practice? “I think the book could help many managers and their organizations. The agile organization is a complicated phenomenon, with many abstractions that I would like to use as practical examples. Ultimately, I try to convince everyone to make their organization more agile, while certain classical ideas are outdated and need to be trashed. It is important for them to keep on focusing on the playing field but also not to forget to adapt to the observed changes. Then the question arises: how to materialize this into action? In my book, I give tips on different levels; some companies still have a long road ahead, but there are also companies that have already traveled a long way, but can still perfect even further.”
And thanks to your tips, can they put change management into practice? “I’m not a proponent of the “change management” term. There is a lot written on the need for organizations to change, but I personally do not believe in those changes, because real changes take an extremely long time and people are not willing to change. It would be better for companies to focus on improving cooperation between people. The best way is to get out of people the way they are. Because in many companies and organizations co-operation is something to strive for. Such an addressed approach leads to great results. Look at VVSB soccer club from Noordwijkerhout; such a small club managed to reach the Cup’s semi-finals because the players work as a team. This is what many companies are missing so much. My book is intended to be a guide on how to arrange a workplace into a learning structure, so that people could better learn and play around the upcoming changes, which might upset the strategic plan.
It is the manager’s responsibility to clarify this
Could you give an example of that? “Look at a team of supermarket employees. Before opening, their manager asks them how it went yesterday. It seems like there was a problem in the meat department. Then the manager would say, “What happened, and what are we going to do to avoid this in future? This kind of discussion should be very clear about pointing out to the company’s strategic goal. And it is the manager’s responsibility to make this clear.”