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How do you find the executive capability to become more agile?

by Kate Scammell-Anderson on 24 Oct 2016
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Disruption is the new state of play. Emerging technologies, a global marketplace and constant change mean that industries, organisations and individuals face challenges to their status quo on a continuous basis. 

Against this backdrop, agility is key. In research conducted by BIE, 94 per cent of nearly 150 business leaders reported that being more agile is a priority for their organisations. From business evolution to business transformation, companies are changing the way they operate on a fundamental level.

For many companies, becoming more agile is a pressing and immediate concern. In fact, 82 per cent of business leaders said leading and delivering step changes in how the business is conducted (business transformation) is their highest priority.

So where do businesses find the executive capability that will enable them to become more agile and to compete in a disrupted environment? 

What is an agile organisation?

Agile is one of those terms that gets thrown around haphazardly. But, ultimately, becoming an agile organisation means developing the capability to proactively adapt to achieve competitive advantage. It means disrupting before you are disrupted and not being afraid to implement revolutionary ways of working, even if they seem slightly alien.

There is now widespread acceptance of The Agile movement, which helps teams respond to unpredictability through incremental, iterative work cadences and empirical feedback. As the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) says: "Large-scale agile transformation [is] about a new way of thinking. It's more collaborative, more open, more creative, and much more efficient than other business models. And it's something that can be implemented across a company, not just in one or two departments."

It can take years to become agile in every area of your business but, in doing so, you are far more likely to weather the storms that you will almost certainly encounter in a rapidly changing business landscape.

And if you are facing problems in the here and now, it is vital that you set out to make these changes as soon as possible, in order to survive and thrive.

Finding the executive capability to become more agile

It's generally not the case that your current executive team will be able to make the move to become more agile without some outside help. Even the most accomplished business leaders do not necessarily have the required experience and knowledge.

Traditionally, businesses have found the right people to help them either through consultants or recruiters – and these are still valid avenues to go down. Consultants, particularly from the Big Four, bring a wealth of experience and can generate innovative and exciting ideas about how to get your business on the right track. However, it can be the case that they do not have hands-on experience, leaving it down to you to action the changes recommended.

Through working with a recruitment provider, you can source the skilled people needed to make agility a reality. However, finding the right people is often a lengthy process, which can pose a problem if you are acutely aware of the need to make fundamental changes to the way in which you operate.

But there is another option too: working with interim executives. These are overqualified specialists, who take on work on an assignment basis - usually geared towards business turnaround or business transformation. They can hit the ground running from day one and can both talk high-level strategy and also implement it. Since they are not interested in a full-time position, they can operate outside of company politics and have no personal agenda – other than to do a good job. After all, they are judged on the value they bring to an organisation – and are only as good as their last assignment.

The right interim executives can parachute into your organisation, help you to become more agile, and then leave once you are able to stand on your own two feet – albeit on an entirely new foundation.  

Becoming more agile is a high priority for many business leaders in today's disrupted environment. However, despite their depth of expertise, they may not possess the skills required to turn this desire into a reality.

Forming partnerships with consultants and recruiters is a tried and tested method that can help you to find the executive capability that you require. But it is also well worth considering how using interim executives could propel you on the path to becoming more agile.

Dealing with disruption

Topics: interim management, Leadership