Accelerate | Nicole Forsgren

Summary of: Accelerate: The Science of Lean Software and DevOps: Building and Scaling High Performing Technology Organizations
By: Nicole Forsgren


Welcome to the summary of ‘Accelerate: The Science of Lean Software and DevOps: Building and Scaling High Performing Technology Organizations,’ where author Nicole Forsgren explores the importance of change management in an ever-evolving business landscape. Learn about the dual operating system that merges traditional hierarchical structures with an agile network, allowing companies to become more adaptive and efficient. Discover five core principles that help establish and maintain this system, along with eight accelerators designed to help your organization navigate change successfully. This captivating summary encourages leaders to break free from stagnant hierarchies and embrace a new approach to successfully manage change.

Leading in an Age of Accelerating Change

Harvard Business School professor emeritus John P. Kotter emphasizes the importance of leadership in a world of fast and intense changes. In his book, he explains how a stable hierarchy may not be able to handle change effectively, as it lacks the ability to recognize emerging opportunities and threats. He highlights that successful businesses often start with a fluid network structure, where the founder is at the core and everyone revolves around them, taking risks and seeking opportunities. As businesses grow, they shift to a more structured hierarchy. Kotter’s work emphasizes that leadership is essential in navigating these changes.

Dual Operating System

Kotter suggests a new approach to change management by establishing a dual operating system, combining the benefits of both hierarchical structures and organic networks. The two systems should be separated but work as partners with the help of five core principles: different people drive change; people “get to” do jobs they relish; both your heart and your head must be at work; you need solid managers to execute change; and the network and hierarchy must function as partners. The network should not be just another department, but must work closely with the hierarchy for mutual benefit. Kotter provides examples of firms that have successfully implemented this dual system, encouraging readers to think outside the box when it comes to driving change and improving organizational structures.

Accelerators for Network-Plus-Hierarchy Structure

John Kotter provides eight accelerators to help create a functional network-plus-hierarchy structure. Urgency, a guiding coalition, a vision, strategic initiatives, volunteers, eliminating internal barriers, celebrating short-term wins, sustaining acceleration, and integrating and replicating wins in the hierarchy are all essential. Kotter emphasizes the differences and alignments between the two systems, highlighting the hierarchy’s efficiency and the network’s innovativeness. Creating a functional network-plus-hierarchy structure requires recognizing these differences, exploiting their synergies, unblocking barriers, and replicating. The network-plus-hierarchy structure offers vast opportunities for agility and innovation while enjoying the stability and reliability of a hierarchical organization.

Changing Business Dynamics

The Need for Leaders and Managers in Time of Change

Change is an inevitable constant, and businesses need to adapt to keep pace. In his book, Kotter emphasizes how change takes several forms within different environments with some posing an opportunity, while others are a threat. Disruptive technologies have continued to emerge and develop at an alarming rate, rendering previous best practices ineffective. The new norm is that a two-year product lifecycle is preferable to the erstwhile twenty-year.

To adapt to the ever-changing business environment, people need to distinguish between leadership and management. Management is essential in hierarchical organizations to create plans, set budgets, organize companies, and offer tactics in job performance. In contrast, leaders focus mainly on the big picture and provide the vision needed to accomplish organizational goals. Leaders are disruptive and require considerable energies to execute their vision, and there must be multiple leaders across all levels of an organization to be effective.

Kotter suggests that most large corporations begin as networks of engaged people connected to a vision that resonates with them. Still, over time, hierarchies emerge, and leaders are phased out of the organizational structures in favor of managers. Kotter, therefore, calls on businesses to unleash their creative energies and let it flow freely across the network to leverage multiple leaders’ strengths.

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