As pressures mount on businesses to become leaner and quicker to adapt to change, what new competencies do business leaders need in order for their organisations to be agile and match fit for the 21st century?
Agility is more than a passing fad with many organisations finding themselves needing to shed their siloed and traditional hierarchy skins. Instead, agile companies are customer centric, inclusive and ready to evolve and adjust direction as challenges and environmental changes arise.
It’s not just doing business in a different way that sets agile organisations apart. These new look fluid business models bring with them the need for a fresh style of leadership and company figureheads are having to transform themselves to keep pace.
A vast amount of thought leadership pieces already exist in the public domain about what organisations need to do, but the most compelling is McKinsey’s paper ‘Leading agile transformation: The new capabilities leaders need to build 21st-century organizations’. It nails its colours to the mast that for agile transformations to be successful, leaders need to develop substantially new mindsets and capabilities.
Stating that ‘leadership and how leadership shapes culture are the biggest barriers - and enablers of - successful agile transformations’, it makes the case that senior executives need three new sets of capabilities in order to make the shift:
- They must transform themselves to develop new behaviours and mindsets,
- They must alter their teams to work in new ways,
- Agility must be built into the design and culture of the whole enterprise if the shift is to occur.
As the McKinsey paper says, most adults spend their time in the reactive state, particularly when they are challenged. The objective for leaders is to move to a creative mindset so it allows them to cultivate a culture of collaboration, value creation and innovation. Change can be supported through coaching techniques so that the mindset is reorganised and uses partnerships as the basis to give teams and workers complete autonomy to get the job done. This frees up the leader to concentrate on discovering new ways to harness the potential in their organisation to promote entrepreneurship, inclusion and co-creation.
Senior managers must learn how they can enable their teams to work in new and effective ways. This can be achieved by building agile teams that are empowered, connected and able to work in rapid cycles to provide value quickly. Teams can be coached and developed to ensure they focus on delivering more value for the organisation’s internal and external stakeholders. In designing teams, understanding the customer’s journey is central to this new systemic and agile way of working with employees, investors, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders coming to the front of the organisation’s purpose.
Design and culture
It’s critical to get purpose, design and culture right in constructing agile organisations, McKinsey likens purpose to finding the north star with organisations needing to have and communicate its purpose if it is to win customers. The second need is for leaders to adopt a model which is smaller, more transparent and better networked so it can evolve as its business ecosystem changes around it. The final part of the jigsaw is for leaders to use development tools such as coaching to help instil and shape a revised corporate culture that is grounded in collaboration and discovery.
For many organisations, agile transformation needs to be a high priority for thriving in today’s unpredictable business world. For those game enough to welcome the transition and deploy the tools they need to bring change, there are many substantial benefits including enhanced profitability and healthy growth.
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