via Oliver Bossert, Alena Kretzberg & Jürgen Laartz / McKinsey Quarterly, Jul 2018

How Senior Executives empower independent teams

  1. Unleash independent teams in meaningful areas
  2. Put strong performers on independent teams, especially at the outset
  3. Provide teams with a clear view of their customer
  4. Allocate resources up front, then hold teams accountable

How Senior Executives can empower the agile manager

  1. Define outcomes, then let teams chart their own path toward them
  2. Step inside independent teams to enable their success
  3. Commit to retraining managers for their redefined roles

Alfred Chandler, the renowned business historian, famously observed that structure follows strategy: companies set their strategies, then organize themselves in a way that lets them carry out their strategies to full effect. But pressure from fast-moving digital natives and digitally transformed incumbents means that traditional businesses no longer have time to rethink their strategies and reorganize themselves every few years.

...more companies are choosing to make small teams their basic organizational unit. Problems occur, however, when companies don’t give their small teams enough autonomy to work at the speed required by the digital economy.

Executives can change this by giving the teams the resources they need, by eliminating red tape, and by encouraging managers to learn, adopt, and enact the more flexible governance methods of agile organizational approaches. Those who do will see their small teams become more independent, and more capable of producing innovations and performance gains that keep their businesses ahead of the competition.

Resources is one thing that the article does not mention. It seems to presume that there are sufficient resources (be it money or manpower), though that may be the case for the large companies that McKinsey (presumably) services.

That being said, having struggled with red tape (messy or otherwise), it is true that be it a large, medium, small or micro company, everyone has their fair share of inefficent processes[1]. Key is ensuring that the bigger processes are smooth, ensuring that the bigger strategic game is played and played well. In this case, ensuring that teams become more agile and independent, is sufficient to keep the company ahead.


  1. Though we can't expect everything to be efficient. ↩︎