Business agility is a hot topic, a McKinsey survey of 2,500 business leaders
showed that 75 percent of companies see organisational agility as a top-three priority, and nearly 40 percent are currently implementing a transformation programme related to agility. In this article we will define what an agile organisation is and how this shift is both impacting and benefiting Talent Acquisition.
We’ve been speaking to CHRO and Heads of Talent at some of the world’s leading global organisations about the agile organisation
to understand what this means to them and Talent Acquisition. Whilst almost everyone agrees that this is an important shift in how organisations operate, what struck us is that there are a number of perspectives on what it means and encapsulates.
As a first step, it captures flexible working which includes, among other things, flexible hours, hot desking and home working, all which may more succinctly be phrased as “anytime, any place, anywhere”. Flexible working initiatives were initially seen as employee benefits but progressive organisations have realised that both employee and employer benefit from this flexibility. However, the true agile organisation includes far more than flexible working.
To understand agile, one can first look at its origins in software development in the early 2000s. The preceding decade had seen sustained failures with traditional waterfall project methodology (top-down planning, homogeneous projects, long delivery plans). Techbeacon
explains how the agile movement started with Scrums in 1995 but its turning point came in 2001 with the publication of the Agile Manifesto
. Over the following decade, the best tech organisations learned that success was delivered through agile teams - small, multi-disciplinary teams with a clearly defined purpose and close customer alignment. These agile teams were empowered to make decisions and iteratively produce outcomes through rapid delivery cycles where they continuously measured and learned what worked, and what didn’t.
Perhaps one of the most compelling elements of this approach is the focus on management through outcomes, with teams given full end-to-end accountability and leadership giving direction on desired outcomes, leaving the team empowered to decide how to deliver them. The Agile Org
puts this succinctly when they note that in an agile organisation the team is empowered by being allowed to work within guidelines (of the task) but without boundaries (of how you achieve it). HBR
says these teams must be responsible for specific outcomes and be trusted to work autonomously but be guided by clear decision rights.
Fast forward 20 years and organisations large and small are embracing agile principles, not just in software development but right across their organisation and projects. For example, in a Bain survey
of 1,300 global executives, the statement that had the most consensus (95 percent agreed) was: “Today’s business leaders must trust and empower people, not command and control them.”
An agile organisation at its simplest level is one in which a significant proportion of its capability is delivered through agile teams. Going back to where we started, a key pillar of an agile organisation may initially be empowering people to decide when and where they can add value using ‘flexible working’, as was the case with BT
. But it encapsulates far more - how organisations define their management structures, teams, business goals, delivery cycles and use of technology. McKinsey describes an agile organisation as:
Given how well agile organisations outperform their peers, it is not surprising that the agile movement is gaining momentum. McKinsey
has shown that agile organisations have a 70 percent chance of being in the top quartile of organisational health, considered one of the leading indicators of long-term performance. These agile organisations achieve greater customer alignment, faster time to market, higher revenue growth, lower costs, and a more engaged workforce.