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I submit that there must be a commitment to, practice of, and execution of professional common behaviors and the presence of highly communicated standardized organizational expectations – without which there are no supports upon which the Agile/SAFe bar can be confidently raised.”

Jim Rosa, Enterprise Agile Consultant, Icon Agility

Because of complexity, diversity and globalization, and the need for interdisciplinary insights, models and activities in today’s businesses, of necessity we are all required to understand, adopt and leverage systems. As a systems geek, passionate about their value, this article defines key terms and why each is important to your success.

Business Agility

The greatest reason to understand and adopt business and human systems is so that your business itself becomes agile. Wikipedia states that business agility refers to the capacity of business systems to rapidly respond to change, in order to maintain and modify goods and services in meeting customer demands, adjust to changes in a business environment, and take advantage of available resources. In a business context, agility is the ability of an organization to rapidly and efficiently adapt to market and environmental changes. 

Agile Enterprise Architecture

Agile enterprise architecture is one such needed framework of systems because it allows organizations to use key principles of complex adaptive systems and complexity science to achieve success. Don’t let these big terms scare you. I’ll explain them in simple terms below. Enterprise architecture is to your business what an architect and a blueprint are to building a house. Without one, you cannot create the sophistication and maturity you need and want in your business. Agile enterprise architecture is when a business understands the need for flexible, easily extended structures and processes upon which to build and evolve the business. Without it, the right activities may not get done or might not get done right. Clarity leads to desired competitive advantages.  

Complex Adaptive Systems

These describe a system of systems; each of which can stand on its own. Envision multiple groups building a house. They include structural, mechanical, plumbing, electrical, and construction systems and teams, each working on their part simultaneously. Each must be able to self-organize, adapt and reconnect periodically to collaborate. Imagine each as complex and ever-changing, all while remaining cross-functional. This is challenging enough in house-building. Consider your business when you mix in emergent technologies, advances in organizational psychology, globalization, digital transformation, and changing client and business requirements. As you manage the growth of your business, each system you incorporate must be high performing and use best practices because your business is only as strong as your weakest link.

Complexity Science

Complexity science is the study of systems, frameworks and the hierarchy of these structures. As in my building example, complexity science clarifies the overall understanding of what, how and when systems must be placed, interact and mutate in inter-disciplinary ways. Without having a systems understanding and an architecture and skillset, you may overlook those systems crucial for your ability to innovate and be successful.

Organizational Intelligence

Similar to emotional and social intelligence, organizational intelligence also requires analysis concerning the intellectual capacities within your business and how to manage them. When you have organizational intelligence, all activities of the business are well-designed and allow for growth and change, as you achieve desired results. 

This article was published in the St. Louis Small Business Monthly column The Extraordinary Workplace in March 2019.

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