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Q&A with Mun-Wai Chung

Updated: Apr 26

Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Mun-Wai Chung, Business Agility Expert / Founder and Principal.

How would you describe your career path in a few words? 


Unusual. You see, my schooling is in electrical engineering. In fact, I was only 1 coursework away from completing the Ph.D. curriculum when I joined the workforce. However, during my first 2 years of working life, I found it more fun to deal with human challenges than technical ones.  


So, after 4 years in engineering, I changed to program management. In product development organizations, program management is all about ensuring the teams work on the right products/features and deliver them on time, on budget and with quality. Unfortunately, most projects were delivered late with overrun budgets. Sometimes, people weren’t even sure if they were working on the right thing. After some investigations, I deduced that teams need to work effectively together while producing a product that delights the customers. That set me on a journey to find out how I can help.  


In the next 20+ years, I worked in almost all the departments in a company as I rose to senior management levels. I found out the answer lies in whether the environment allows the workers to work at their natural best. Because then, workers feel safe to contribute to their fullest, increasing the company’s ability to adapt to this fast-changing world.  


And that starts with the top. 


That’s why when I became an independent consultant 4 years ago, I decided to help CEOs and executives build flexible and innovative organizations. 


How do you think agile practices have transformed companies over the past two years? 


Sadly, too many companies focus on the practices without understanding the mindset that is required and the principles of agility. So, they bought expensive frameworks and sent people to certified trainings, thinking once those were in place, the company was deemed “agile”. Yet, during the global pandemic, and when we come out of it, companies have not been able to move quickly and easily with grace (the dictionary’s definition of agile) and solve problems like supply chain issues or adapt to the new way of remote working. 


Agile is not a goal. It is a means and a journey to achieve the business purpose. Agile practices are mostly focused on the engineering and IT departments. Even though other departments have started to adopt agile, agile cannot be done in silos. The company is only as agile as the least agile department. 


For a company to be able to move quickly and easily with grace regardless of what the future might bring, it needs a set of organizational capabilities, behaviors, and ways of working that afford the business the freedom, flexibility, and resilience to achieve its purpose. Agile practices alone are not enough.  


What successful cases of agile transformations have you had the opportunity to observe that have particularly stood out to you? 


Instead of naming successful cases, let me list the characteristics they all encompass: 

  1. Realise that transforming a company to be able to adapt to this fast-changing world is not a project with an end date. 

  2. Have compelling visions and purposes. 

  3. Communicate #2 clearly to the teams so that the teams not only can repeat it, but internalise it.  

  4. Let the teams figure out how best to achieve the vision and purpose. 

  5. Each team includes all the skillsets required to tackle a problem. 

  6. Inspect and adapt, with systems in place to allow (and even encourage) learning. Systems include feedback system and the performance review process. 

  7. Experiment, learn, pivot or revise, instead of a do-it-right-the-first-time mindset along with systems encouraging experimentation. Systems include performance review & ranking, reward & recognition, corporate planning and budgeting process.  

  8. Have safe and trusting environments that allow failures and learning. 



  • All but #1 are part of the 12 Agile principles.  

  • Doing #5, #6, and #7 properly may seem wasteful, but in the end, the companies innovate faster than their competitors, thriving and leading in this uncertain world. 

  • Since leaders set the tone for all of them, sadly, some of those successful cases turn sour when companies change leaders. 


So, we shouldn’t focus just on agile practices. Also, agile transformation is not a project. And you told us that even successful transformations can reverse itself very easily. What should we do so that companies can be agile (move quickly and easily with grace) to adapt to this forever-changing world?  

So, we shouldn't focus just on agile practices. Also, agile transformation is not a project. And you told us that even successful transformations can reverse itself very easily.

What should we do so that companies can be agile to adapt to this forever-changing world?"

First, know what the purpose of a 21st-century company is. It is not to make money and increase shareholder value but to create delights for customers. The rest will come.  


Then understand the primary goal and purpose of 21st-century leadership and management. It is not to ‘crap the whip’ to ensure workers produce, but to enable common people to achieve uncommon things for their customers and users, while also generating great workplaces and value for society (Peter Drucker’s definition). 


Once those purposes are clear, consider the implications which include the following: 

  1. Define what delights to bring to the customers. That is a vision of the world that does not yet exist. That is the WHY. 

  2. Build safe and trusting work environments where people feel free to contribute to their fullest. 

  3. Organize people in the company to deliver customer value quickly. E.g. Group people together with all the skillsets needed to deliver a particular value (not a hierarchy of authority). 

  4. Give people the authority to act as they see fit. 

  5. Manage systems to enable and not hinder people’s freedom to act. Systems include governance, policies & processes, and KPIs. E.g.  

  6. Strategy and corporate planning 

  7. Budgeting 

  8. HR policies & practices - recruiting/hiring, onboarding, performance management, incentive & compensation, people development 


And, in whatever you do, strive for excellence, not perfection. 


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