Agile Leadership

A 2007 Harvard Business Review Article  entitled “The New Deal At The Top”  talked about the need for companies to become more strategically agile.

It described strategic agility as ‘a company’s ability to alter its strategies and business models rapidly in response to major changes in its market space and to do so repeatedly without major trauma. Three years of in-depth case research on a dozen large companies worldwide showed the authors that one key factor is a new leadership model at the top. Traditional leadership models which valued power, autonomy and internal competition would become unfit for purpose. Agile companies would require senior executives to assume collective rather than individual responsibility for results. They would need to:

  • ‘build inter-dependencies among units and divisions  with teams  motivated to engage with one another  [and]
  • carefully manage their dealings to promote collaboration that is frequent, intense, informal open and focused on shared issues and the long term.’ 

Ten years later, this world is becoming a reality in Ireland. Deloitte recently launched their 2017 Global Human Capital Trends: Rewriting the rules for the digital age. They have found that “disruptive technologies and a change in demographics have created a radical shift in the world of work.  Today’s technological advancements have revolutionised the way we live our lives, communicate, purchase and consume goods and services. Their research shows that only 12% of the Fortune 500 companies from 1955 are still in business, and in 2016 alone, 26% fell off the list.  Organisations need to adapt to remain successful in this Digital Age”.  

Deloitte’s  No. 1 Global and Irish Human Capital Trend: The organisation of the Future is arriving now.

“Companies are racing to replace the traditional hierarchical structure with agile, empowered networks of teams. Organisations were originally designed for efficiency and effectiveness, which often led to silos. These models which were based on predictable commercial patterns, were not suited to an era of change and disruption. Now organisations need to be designed for speed and agility, which brings a shift from hierarchy to networks”.

What does this mean for Leadership?

In our Executive Coaching Practice, we work with many  leaders as they navigate their organisations through this change curve. As the 2007 HBR Article predicted, “switching to the new deal almost always requires a huge shift in the company’s culture, values and norms of interaction”.   Collaboration for many executives is unknown and unproven territory, it involves being able to tap into the organisation’s resource pool at every level; being open to constant learning; valuing innovation and creativity; being prepared to try and build rather than perfect; being open to co-creation and partnering with customers; being proactive; being highly networked.   Leaders and organisations can be at any stage on this change curve, yet regardless of where you are at, Forbes 8 tips for building collaboration in your team or organisation are worth reviewing:

  1. Realise that Silos can kill your business – a silo mentality is synonymous with power struggles, lack of co-operation and loss of productivity.
  2. Build your collaboration strategy around the Human Element – collaboration is first and foremost a change in attitude and behaviour of people.
  3. Use collaboration as an organisation change strategy – success dictates that the individuals impacted by change be involved in the change from the beginning.
  4. Make visioning a team sport – the power of a vision comes truly into play when the employees themselves have had some part in its creation.
  5. Utilise diversity in problem solving – diversity causes people to consider perspectives and possibilities that would otherwise be ignored.
  6. Help people develop relationships – discover each other’s strengths and weaknesses, build personal ties and develop a common understanding of what you are trying to achieve.
  7. Focus on building trust – be open, candid and communicate frequently.
  8. Watch your body language – remember non-verbal gestures say even more than words.
HBR 2007 “The New Deal at the Top  -
Deloitte Global Human Capital Index report 2017
Tips for collaborative leaders