If there is one important leadership lesson that the recent health crisis has taught organisations all over the world is that agility is not just a fancy term that you adopt to appear current. It has become a necessity for your organisation to thrive. In a time where all teams have had to work from home with patchy internet connections and possibly different time zones, many employers and employees had scrambled to build models that work.
Incidentally, the organisations that were fast to adapt to uncertainty have had an easier run than those who could not. There is more than enough evidence from across the world, showing how agility benefits even huge companies such as Microsoft and Amazon in the long run when it comes to market capitalization and management as well. Complex fancy structures of corporate governance looked good back in the day but now is the time to do away with bureaucracies of hierarchies and embrace agility at the senior-most levels in any organisation- the C Suite.
This blog covers what agility means for the C Suite leaders and how can it be achieved in an organisation. Many traditional leaders believe that having agility as an option among teams that develop products is all there is to agility. However, agility has to start from the very top of the organisation’s management.
What this simply means is that there will always be something more that the organisation can potentially do, even in the current mode of operation. In simple words or the words of Project Management Institute (PMI), agility is the ability to change fast, and transform fast. To assess where your organisation is today in the spectrum of agility, there are tools for you to do it, for example, Harvard Business Review’s guide on The Agile C-Suite.
In essence, you need to look at what are the areas that you can be agile in, depending on the kind of business you are in. This needs to be followed by assignment of metrics that would define your agility journey.
What C-Suite needs to know about being Agile
1. Agility is about your organisation’s ability to change fast, but agility isn’t quickly achieved
Especially for C-Suite and processes set in stone, agility cannot be achieved at the snap of a finger. The steps that you take towards agility can be small, yet contribute a huge difference to your organisation’s performance. You can start by imbibing a sense of agility in your teams to start with, by allowing them windows of innovation and creating a safe space for them to lead independently. Gradually, you can move towards allowing teams to self organise and allocate tasks (which can be a higher level of agility) and so on.
2. You can learn to be an agile leader
There are tens of courses and classes on how to lead in an agile environment available online, some of which can be studied by C-Suite leaders to be ready and anticipate some of the changes with agility and their response. These courses will also help leaders understand and assess what level of agility might truly be the right fit for their organisation. If they are a fairly large organisation, identification of places where teams would need to be left alone is required.
3. Some business processes will need to be overhauled to enable transformation
In some cases, you might have to consider procedural overhauls for certain processes or parts of the business, especially when you’re setting up something new. Like mentioned earlier, these can be small steps but culturally, you will have to think in a transformational way.
As a leader, you will need to demonstrate a higher level of agility than your teams because while they work in individual teams, your work and agility would have to be cut across.
4. Demonstrate and communicate change, however small
Morning stand-up calls, walkarounds, inter and intra team check-ins coupled with a communication of the commitment to be agile are some of the things that can help a strong leadership be more agile. Whenever an old traditional process that is outdated is replaced with an agile one - for instance, having formal team meetings replaced with design thinking sessions - announce the change and share why you feel the need for such changes within the organisation.
5. Remember that there are no endpoints
Because agility is a trait that you would imbibe, there will be no endpoints to this agile journey that will clearly tell you that the goal of being agile has been achieved.
However, there are metrics (such as transparency, change in team dynamics etc.) that you can use to see if agility is working well for your organisation or not. Each organisation is also unique which means that what works for a Microsoft, might not work for you. As there is no one-size-fits-all approach to becoming an agile organisation, it is important to continually keep training, unlearning, relearning and improvising at every step of the way.
Each company does agility differently and at different levels. What is important, although, is that the C-Suite level leaders in each organisation embrace it at the same time as well. This responsibility does not fall squarely on the shoulders of the CEO as many surveys have shown to be the case. Other CXOs too, will need to be involved given that this desire to be agile is lower amongst other C-Suites. This means that a top-level buy-in will be needed in the beginning to set the ball rolling throughout your organisation.
And should you need support with finding the best talents to lead your agile efforts within the organisation, let our specialist tech and executive search recruiters at BGC Group do that for you. Reach out to us today!