Agile organization: how to make a startup grow well
The implementation of the agile organizational model in startups
How can you transform a startup into an agile organization? Let’s talk about it with an expert!
Let’s meet Monica Margoni, Agile Consultant!
Hi Monica, can you tell us a little about yourself, your training and professional path and how you approached the world of startups?Monica Margoni is Founder of Facilitalab, Partner of Vival.institute, Gilde Agile Organisationsentwicklung e.V. and Liberating Structures, as well as trainer in Talent Lab. She also fulfils the role of facilitator and consultant in different organizations. She is a journalist, with training and experience in facilitation, coaching, organizational development and with a specific focus on agile organizational models oriented towards self-organization.
I grew up in a small town, I love the mountains, where you live in close relationship with nature. I have learned to ask myself how I live and what kind of impact I want to have in the world, on people and on living beings. This is a track that I carry inside and it explains many of the choices I have made: what do we need to communicate well, to work together effectively, what kind of practices and structures support a complex system such as an organization, what kind of innovative and sustainable solutions and products we can create. My common thread is the vitality of people and organizations. A great challenge! First of all because it is a question that I ask myself every day.
I studied languages, I went through the journalistic activity – which I still practice – to get to facilitation and agile organizational development, to everything that is useful to communicate, think, decide together. Inclusive yes, but also effective and efficient. I am curious by nature, I have explored different approaches, methods, practices. I am also curious about the different dimensions in which we live and act: individual, group, collective, social, and political dimensions, but also the economic one.
I found out that I care a lot about how we act, as well as what we do. In fact, in all the training I have done on various approaches and techniques, there is a vision of the person and the world. An idea of a sustainable future, where everything is in balance and lives in a resilient way. In this sense, nature is a teacher, because it knows the phases of birth, development, decay and it has an intrinsic regeneration that transforms everything, it is circular, an element with a new life is born from a waste. It is always vital.
And then the process. “The path is the goal”: this motto expresses the concept I try to embody. The process is the dimension in which we learn, evolve and mature both alone and together. Of course, the goal is beautiful, especially in the mountains: when you get to the top, you forget the effort and your gaze is lost and is amazed by the beauty. Process is the field of experimentation, and there we learn to think and learn how to learn.
I approached the world of startups a few years ago because I have a challenge to turn into an innovative project. In the Startup Geeks community, I learned about the various phases that a startup normally faces. The environment is very innovative, dynamic and creative. At the beginning, it is normal to focus a lot on the idea, service, or product. But sooner or later there comes a phase in which we have to learn how to relate between team members, how to take decisions and the type of leadership and the organizational model that best suits us. In this sense, agile organizational development can help us.
How is your work and specialization useful for startups?
It is wonderful to start with an idea that you are convinced of and to commit to give it shape and have positive impact on the world. Perhaps we are not used to ask ourselves the purpose that animates us, that gives us energy, that makes us vital. That’s the real engine. Today we talk more and more about the “purpose” of an organization, linked to the impact it wants to have in the world. Since startups invest a lot of energy, time and money in the idea, it is useful to ask if there is an underlying consistency between idea and purpose. Or how to get to define the purpose of the organization, and then decline it.
In the startup world, then, the team plays a fundamental role. There are several aspects to consider, the ones that are important to me are communication between equals, the construction of a culture of relationships and conflict management. And then leadership: in agile organizations, leadership is distributed, and here a new type of organizational model also takes shape, in which roles, responsibilities, skills, potentials, decisions, and everything that constitutes the architecture of the system is at the service of the value that the startup aims to create. It is like building a foundation on which the house rests. It is also possible to fail due to the dynamics that are created at the relational, decision-making, organizational level, an element that is often overlooked at the beginning because the startup is focused on its having to function.
Can you tell us an experience you are having in the startup world where you are applying the agile method?
In South Tyrol there is Innovalley, a network of companies that aim at innovation, at attracting new talents, and creating a meeting space between successful companies, startups, the world of education, science, and research. It is a space for experimentation, co-creation and planning, in which different actors contribute with their skills and potential. In this moment, I give my contribution as a facilitator, as it is important to create bottom-up moments, so that young people, startup founders, and innovators can be the real protagonists. The approach is the same: to encourage self-organization, to create a space within which people can work well because they are supported by a structure that allows them to reach results in a collaborative and effective way. This happens between startups, but also within startups. The collaborative dimension, communication between equals, the culture of feedback, the agile mindset offers a basis on which to build an organizational model oriented towards self-organization, in which there is a lot of autonomy and at the same time a lot of responsibility, clarity in roles, orientation to the results, to the customer, to the creation of value.
Monica, you are an expert of the agile organizational development, when and why did you decide to undertake this activity?
We are constantly evolving, so we develop, grow and mature in every moment. After my journalistic activity, I began to have training experiences on the themes of change and transformation, which are intertwined with all the dimensions of our individual and collective life, of our way of understanding work, economics and building the future. I understood that I feel vital when I open spaces of vitality, in which this change is possible. From here, I started training in empathic communication, coaching, facilitation, to get to understand how – in addition to building spaces for continuous learning in organizations, learning from mistakes, acting by reflecting and implementing the new elements that emerge – it is possible to change the systems in which we live, organizations, and therefore leadership, responsibilities, decisions, in essence the way we work and arrive at results. Who among us does not have present meetings, decisions, in which we do not know what we are talking about, if we are informing or deciding, who would intervene, if we had to prepare and so on? I notice that, in different situations, this sensitivity to “how” we act is like an antenna that every time picks up signals and can give resonance, from the perspective of the process, to how things are evolving. And so, after investigating how we can develop as people, I began to investigate organizations, both in the profit and non-profit world. I am also active in participatory processes useful for finding solutions to a question that involves the citizens of a certain area. And then the commitment to sustainability has also taken shape, for an economy oriented towards the common benefit, for a sustainable and resilient development of the territories. Today, even startups are called to ask themselves these questions: what kind of economy I support, what positive impact do I want to have, what kind of product design I choose and many other questions that affect the entire value chain. And how to do all this? Using the agile method!
We have a doubt and a question and that is: the startup, in itself, is not already agile?
There are many definitions of the agile philosophy, the reference is in any case the Agile Manifesto, which turns twenty this year. However, by agile we do not only mean agile frameworks such as Scrum or Kanban, but a much broader approach, which touches various dimensions: mindset, culture, people, teams, customers, product development, work by objectives, workflow, processes, spaces for experimentation, decision-making methods, the organizational model etc. We are truly in the midst of an epochal paradigm shift. It is not just about new methodologies, but about a new way of understanding work and doing business. Therefore, you are not agile by nature, you become agile every day, thanks to practice, experimentation, reflection, continuous learning. And then it is important to be in a system, which can be the startup, that supports this type of change. And the startup, in turn, affects and is influenced by the ecosystem in which it is located. There will certainly be a benefit, going back to the example of Innovalley, if the startup grows in a world in which various players and various perspectives – economy, research, innovation … – meet factors that determine its growth and success.
Monica, can you tell us if in your opinion the Italian ecosystem of startups is favorable? What do you observe in the panorama even from an agile perspective?
Still from an agile perspective, there are some observations that I would like to make. I just read on will_ita, which is opening a frontier of journalism on Instagram, that the cost of starting a business in Italy is the highest in Europe, with a difference of almost 2000 euros compared to the second nation in the ranking, the Netherlands. Bureaucracy is our big obstacle. Italy is far behind other European countries in terms of new businesses: in 2020, venture capital investments in Italian startups amounted to 430 million euros, which is nothing in comparison with those received by German companies, equal to 6.4 billion. The price of bureaucracy is not the only factor weighing on investments or on the number of successful Italian startups and therefore we still have a long way to go!
Monica, at this point we just have to ask for your contacts for startups who would like to request your services!
Sure! Here are all my contacts:
If you want to meet other mentors interviewed by us, read also: Mentor, alongside the founders, from the genesis of an idea to the startup, Mentor and entrepreneur, leader in a female community, Mentor supports startup founders along their journey and Mentor, Advisor and Angel helps startups from idea to growth