Unlock agile organizational structure and culture

Agile organizational structure abstract image

Adopting Agile at Scale requires a cultural transformation at the organizational level. But that transformation doesn’t happen overnight. An agile organizational structure demands in-depth reflection and many steps to truly accomplish.

What is an agile organization, and what are its benefits?

At its heart, an agile organizational structure is a network of individuals and teams that follow a shared methodology and purpose across company workflows. The network centers on delivering value to its customers rather than profit to the business, using technology and agile principles like collaboration and flexibility to do so.

Organizations following this structure embrace complex and unpredictable industries by adopting fast-paced learning and decision-making cycles. The goal is to efficiently respond to rapidly evolving marketplaces and changing customer needs.

Consulting firm McKinsey & Company completed a study of companies embracing an agile mindset to evaluate its effectiveness. Along with improvements in customer satisfaction, the study revealed many benefits, including: 

  1. Higher revenue: A successful transition to an agile framework resulted in a 20–30% increase in financial performance and better business outcomes.
  2. Increased engagement: Agile business models experienced a 20–30% improvement in employee engagement, boosting retention rates and fostering company loyalty.
  3. Organizational resilience: The pace of change is accelerating as technological and organizational advances happen faster. Developing organizational agility builds resilience to those advances, helping companies bounce forward from challenges instead of returning to the status quo.
  4. Productivity: Agile methodology helps businesses meet strategic goals, increase project visibility, and get real-time initiative results — boosting overall productivity by 30–50%. 


Organizational structure for Agile at Scale

Agile isn’t merely a set of processes you overlay onto existing company infrastructure. It’s a mindset that changes how you relate to customers and employees. An agile organization steps away from the traditional top-down hierarchy to decentralize decision-making, empowering those who drive value for the company to decide how to deliver on company goals. 

That cultural shift doesn’t mean leadership can’t play a role — quite the opposite. Agile frees managers to do what they do best, setting goals and KPIs, creating and communicating big-picture vision, and developing strategies that drive organizational growth.

Agile culture involves:

  1. Collaboration: By its nature, agile organizations are collaborative. The model brings together diverse cross-functional teams that drive improvements as different groups learn to work together.
  2. Continuous learning and feedback: Agile operates on short-term iterations and sprints, meaning teams can experiment, adjust, and refine deliverables at a rapid pace. 
  3. Increased visibility and transparency: Uniting behind a common objective breaks down departmental silos and opens communication, increasing transparency and driving collaboration between disparate groups.
  4. Innovation and problem-solving: Agile’s diversified teams offer different perspectives on a single problem, which results in dynamic and responsive solutions. Rapid testing and feedback cycles mean the team is constantly improving their solutions.
  5. Failing forward: After each iteration, agile teams reflect on what worked and what didn’t. With ongoing feedback, they leverage mistakes to drive progress and improvement. 


Fostering an agile mindset and culture

Establishing agility within an organization takes more than flipping a switch. Scaling agile is a lengthy process. You can reorganize every level of your business at once or take small, incremental steps, establishing agile at the team or department level until you transform the entire organization. 

Whichever path you decide, the following steps will help set the mindset and culture necessary for a successful transition. 

1. Focus on growth

Adopting Agile at Scale requires a commitment to change from everyone, especially senior management. To take hold, organizations must adopt a growth mindset. There will be setbacks, but to successfully scale agile, company leaders need to:

  • Be willing to learn
  • Embrace challenges
  • Accept and act on criticism
  • Be resilient in the face of failure

Adopting agile is always a work in progress. Even after establishing the necessary methods, processes should adjust and improve to adapt to changes in the business environment.

2.  Determine which changes to make

It’s not enough for an organization to commit to adopting agile. You must decide what the final product will look like. Identify the starting points — areas of weakness — and each ideal post-transition end goal. 

Starting point


Playing it safe

  • Being conservative with risks
  • Not accepting failure

Embracing risk

  • Going all in, even if the outcome is uncertain
  • Having the freedom to experiment

Listening to the loudest voices

  • Steering the conversation with leaders and senior management 
  • Failing to notice when team members feel reluctant to speak up

Valuing different perspectives

  • Actively seeking input from diverse sources
  • Entrenching a responsibility for every team member to contribute

Managing teams

  • Encouraging a top-down, hierarchical approach
  • Organizing teamwork based on rigid rules

Coaching teams

  • Trusting teams to find the best way forward
  • Solutioning based on guidelines and asking the right questions

Individual focus

  • Prioritizing individual tasks above group requirements
  • Not offering opportunities to grow

Team focus

  • Helping team members do their best
  • Being open and transparent
  • Offering support and insight


3. Develop leaders

Despite the fact that scaling agile is a collaborative process, leadership teams drive the transformation. Invest in training to help them adopt the agile methodology and develop the growth mindset necessary for success. They’ll be able to entrench agile principles into corporate culture, coach teams through roadblocks, and act on feedback.

4. Invest in infrastructure

Communication, collaboration, and visibility — these are core agile principles. Successful implementation gives employees the tools to live up to these ideals. That means investing in:

  • Project management applications to build visibility around group activities
  • Collaborative spaces to encourage teamwork
  • Communication channels to help working groups share learnings
  • Human resource policies that are consistent with agile cultural values

5. Welcome feedback 

Continuous learning isn’t only for business processes. It also applies to agile culture. Adoption requires constant monitoring to evaluate the impact of behavioral changes and conducting retrospectives to see what’s working and what isn’t. 

Leaders can gather data through employee surveys, in-person interviews, and suggestion boxes. They must also commit to acting on feedback and taking steps to improve processes based on the findings.


Role of leadership in Agile at Scale

Business and team leaders spearhead adopting agile, and what they do and don’t do will determine the speed and ease of the transition. 

Leaders must be mindful of agile’s challenges to avoid and mitigate common errors. 

1. Failing to empower teams

Not granting their colleagues and teams autonomy to establish their own methods will lead to disengaged employees who don’t adapt to the agile framework.

2. Choosing the wrong people

Agile teams require new, specialized roles like scrum masters and product owners. Employees filling these positions need more than technical know-how. They need training and the right soft skills, like communication and organization, to succeed. 

3. Clinging to old ways of thinking

Giving up the control of a hierarchical organization structure is challenging for some. Leaders must learn to trust their teams to figure out what works and deliver their best.   

Leadership has the power to make positive contributions by:

  • Giving teams the freedom to evolve in unique ways
  • Taking on the role of a “servant leader” to help teams meet their objectives, not vice versa
  • Incorporating outcome-based metrics like OKRs instead of traditional KPIs

Tools that support agile teamwork

Converting a team or business to an agile organizational structure is a unique challenge that requires specialized tools. Roadmunk by Tempo creates a visual roadmap that plots your agile implementation, building visibility into the process. Coupled with Jira-enabled Timesheets, you can track conversion activities and ensure teams meet their targets.

For more resources like this visit tempo.io/agile-at-scale.

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