Aaron De Smet

What a lot of people who need to carry out decisions want to know are two things in addition to the decision. Why? Because why gives them context. It gives them more clarity on how this connects to other things and what the full set of expectations are about what the decision is supposed to produce and why we made it and what the tradeoffs … [ Read more ]

The agile manager

Who manages in an agile organization? And what exactly do they do?

Safe Enough to Try: An Interview with Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh

Organizations are more likely to innovate and thrive when they unleash the potential of individuals and the power of self-organizing teams, says the online retailer’s CEO.

Going From Fragile to Agile

Why do companies need to be more nimble? McKinsey’s Aaron De Smet and Chris Gagnon explain what’s driving organizational agility, why it matters, and what to do.

Untangling Your Organization’s Decision Making

Any organization can improve the speed and quality of its decisions by paying more attention to what it’s deciding.

Aaron De Smet

Processes are extremely important, which is: How does it work? What are the activities that, when you string them together in a particular way, add value? And what are the decisions that are made along that chain of activities? Who makes them? How do they get measured? This is one of the most important things.

When we develop metrics for an organization and set targets and … [ Read more ]

Aaron De Smet

A lot of people, when they think of how they design the organization, immediately gravitate toward the management hierarchy—the lines and boxes. But that’s just one small element of how you set up the organization. Structure also includes governance and how you set up which committees can approve things and make which decisions and which authorities get delegated and what is contained in a role … [ Read more ]

Aaron De Smet

Agility is the ability of an organization to renew itself, adapt, change quickly, and succeed in a rapidly changing, ambiguous, turbulent environment. Agility is not incompatible with stability—quite the contrary. Agility requires stability for most companies.

Agility needs two things. One is a dynamic capability, the ability to move fast—speed, nimbleness, responsiveness. And agility requires stability, a stable foundation—a platform, if you will—of things that don’t … [ Read more ]

Wouter Aghina, Aaron De Smet, Kirsten Weerda

The idea behind agile governance is to establish both stable and dynamic elements in making decisions, which typically come in three types. We call big decisions where the stakes are high Type I; frequent decisions that require cross-unit dialogue and collaboration, Type II; and decisions that should be parsed into smaller ones and delegated as far down as possible, often to people with clear accountability, … [ Read more ]

Agility: It Rhymes with Stability

Companies can become more agile by designing their organizations both to drive speed and create stability.

Wouter Aghina, Aaron De Smet, Suzanne Heywood

… the matrix organization […] gained favor in the 1970s as a solution for large organizations struggling to coordinate decision making and activities that cut across functional and business-unit lines. The theory was strong, but when Tom Peters appraised the scene, in the late 1970s, “the matrix ‘solution’ had brought with it problems at least as knotty as those it was supposed to cure.”

The quest … [ Read more ]

Why Agility Pays

New research shows that the trick for companies is to combine speed with stability.

Getting Organizational Redesign Right

Companies will better integrate their people, processes, and structures by following nine golden rules.

The Past and Future of Global Organizations

After more than 50 years of trying, the search for an ideal model of the global organization remains elusive. But intriguing new experiments are under way.

The Hidden Value of Organizational Health—and How to Capture It

New research suggests that the performance payoff from organizational health is unexpectedly large and that companies have four distinct “recipes” for achieving it.

Making Time Management the Organization’s Priority

To stop wasting a finite resource, companies should tackle time problems systematically rather than leave them to individuals.

Aaron DeSmet, Monica McGurk, and Elizabeth Schwartz

Adults learn in predictable steps. Before employees can master a new skill effectively, for example, they must be convinced it will help improve their organization’s performance, recognize that their own performance is weak in that area, and then actually choose to learn. Yet most corporate training programs overlook these prerequisites and just assume that employees “get it.” This approach is a big mistake because it … [ Read more ]

Getting More from Your Training Programs

To improve results from training programs, executives must focus on what happens in the workplace before and after employees go to class.

Anatomy of a Healthy Corporation

Executives understand that it’s important to monitor and improve the long-term health of their companies, but rarely do. Here’s how they can practice what they preach.