Developing more ‘agile’ organisations has become one of the top priorities for today’s leaders. But when it comes to business, what does agility really mean, and why is it such a highly prized attribute? Cirrus CEO Dr Simon Hayward writes for the Manchester Evening News.
Whatever your business, chances are it’s a lot more unpredictable than it used to be. The predictability of the ‘old’ world really has disappeared for most of us.
We have experienced economic turmoil, the digital explosion, and dramatic changes in customer behaviour. The pace of change has increased.
To succeed, business has had to adapt with increased pace in order to respond this constant change – we’ve had to become more agile.
To develop agility, leaders need to change the way they do things. The old fashioned ‘command and control’ style of leadership, where the boss tells workers what to do, just doesn’t cut it any more.
If you want your business to adapt in response to customer needs, you need to ensure that the employees closest to the customer can make decisions.
Your business still needs to have a very clear purpose and direction. In fact, it’s more important than ever that all employees really understand the aims of the business so that when they do make decisions, those decisions are aligned with clear goals.
Agility is a key factor in my new book, Connected Leadership.
The key to a more connected type of leadership is that it is ‘networked’. This means that employees across the business have the shared intelligence to be able to respond to local priorities while maintaining a collective vision just as a successful football or rugby team shares a collective intelligence that allows highly fluid movement without losing its tactical shape.
Each player knows what they are seeking to achieve collectively, so is therefore able to exercise judgement about being in the right place at the right time to maintain interdependence in the face of determined competition.
I work very closely with Three, the UK’s fastest growing mobile operator. In recent years, Three has gone from being the most complained about mobile operator to the least complained about. Developing greater agility was central to achieving this successful transformation.Three encouraged innovation and increased agility. Senior leaders believe that to engage customers you must first engage colleagues with your organisation’s purpose and values.This enables colleagues to have better conversations with customers.
In order to connect people to purpose and develop more customer-focused behaviour, Three simplified its strategy and introduced a major programme of learning and development. As a result, people across the business now feel more confident that they’re working on the right things, speed of decision-making has increased, and Three is performing better as an organisation.
Agility needs the strong spine of purpose, direction and values and the supple muscles of learning. It needs a culture where innovation and improvement are valued and people feel confident to experiment without fear of failure.
Importantly, agility demands that you really focus your resources on the things that matter most to customers.
© MEN 2016