Strategy & LeadershipHR StrategyOrganisational agility: thriving from change

Organisational agility: thriving from change

This year's corporate crisis has reminded us that organisational change is a challenging process. For this reason, organisational agility must be a priority for modern corporations. As a result, a sudden shift in landscape may become easier to deal with. HRD Connect spoke with Pedro Angulo, Allied Irish Banks, to gain a clearer picture.

Conducting and managing effective organisational change has always been one of HR’s core functions.

In short, this is the process of a company renewing its approach or structure in order realign with the landscape of an industry or to more effectively compete.

However, somewhat undervalued is the ability to quickly and vigilantly react to a changing landscape and perform effective organisational change at a moment’s notice. This is otherwise referred to as organisational agility.

Not only is this a crucial element in terms of a company keeping its head above water and going toe-to-toe with the competition, but 2020’s corporate crisis has shown us that it can be vital in effectively navigating disruption.

Now more than ever, HR and business leaders should be conscious of creating an organisational structure and culture that is malleable and can seamlessly undergo change.

The importance of agility

To obtain a deeper understanding of how important this can be for modern organisations, HRD Connect spoke to Pedro Angulo, Head of Leadership Development, Allied Irish Banks.

Agility is no longer a choice for organisations wanting to survive the current crisis and thrive in the new normal,” he said.

“COVID-19 has forced organisations to operate at unprecedented levels of pace in order to adapt and protect their customers and staff. I can’t think of anything that has ever tested organisations’ agility in this way.”

This agility has manifested in a number of ways, affecting areas such as staff, decision making, productivity and many more.

Research conducted by Agile Business Consortium identified the top seven learnings related to the management of change during the pandemic, including:

  • Giving more trust and autonomy to staff (19%)
  • Improving productivity and reducing costs through remote working (13%)
  • Reducing bureaucracy to make decision making faster (11%)

“My main concern is, how long can we sustain this pace and how can we improve the resilience and vitality of our people and organisation?” said Angulo. “Will we capture and embed the learnings and practices gained from the crisis or will we and our organisations revert to the old ways of doing things?”

How can leaders implement this?

Angulo went on to outline a number of ways in which HR and business leaders can begin to reshape organisations to become more agile, including leadership strategy, the cultivation of a healthy company culture and fostering an environment in which people can learn and grow.

“Role modelling ‘servant leadership’ is a great example,” he said. “This is a leadership style where leaders display great concern for the welfare of those they lead. They are mindful, selfless and compassionate of themselves and others. This is the ideal way to create an agile learning culture.”

Staying within the realm of leadership, he went on to cite “leading with purpose” as another key focus point for leaders.

“During times of uncertainty, people need a meaningful and clear north star. Leaders need to align employee interactions to the company’s purpose and foster a shared understanding of values,” he said.

“Purpose gives people meaning and a sense of belonging; both critical psychological states for high levels of resilience, motivation and productivity.”

Finally, Angulo spoke of “practicing ruthless prioritisation” as a strategical point. “Agility has to be aligned to deliver better customer and employee as well as financial outcomes,” he said.

The benefits of greater organisational agility

Though particularly relevant in 2020, the concept of organisational agility is not new, and has proven, tangible benefits.

McKinsey clearly demonstrated this in a 2015 report entitled Why Agility Pays. The report’s analysis, based on surveys of more than two million respondents, found that 70% of agile companies rank in the top quartile of organisational health.

Angulo echoed this in his comments, citing numerous potential upsides relating to culture, productivity and more.

Perhaps most notably, he mentioned “greater customer centricity and better customer outcomes”; a topic that heavily ties in with the core aims of any organisation.

“This is what agility is really all about,” he said. “Agile organisations keep restructuring resources, processes, systems, products and services to adapt to their fast-changing customer needs.”

Concluding, Angulo touched on learning as a key area, noting its particular significance during a time in which roles are continuously changing, project-based working is becoming the norm and new technologies are frequently being implemented.

“Organisations can expect better cultures of learning and adaptability,” he said. “These cultures reward continuous learning, are feedback-rich and their leaders are role models of continuous learning and experimentation.”

The challenges of becoming more agile

As is the case with the implementation of any new procedure within an organisation, challenges and difficulties will often present themselves here.

In offering some final thoughts, Angulo outlined what he believes organisations should be most wary of.

“Leadership agility is the challenge I am most interested in as the way in which leaders lead is a critical factor in creating the right climate for adaptable and agile cultures,” he said.

“Agile leaders must embrace complexity, be highly curious and inquisitive, adapt quickly to new realities, and find ways to energise themselves and their teams.

“However, with the added pressure that has arisen as a result of recent circumstances, coupled with the onset of younger generations coming into leadership positions, this can be complicated and arduous to implement.

“Leadership now matters more than ever as high levels of uncertainty, vulnerability and tiredness can create high levels of anxiety and burnout. Agility is no longer an option. Organisations that want to survive need to adapt to the current highly unpredictable and fast changing environment.”

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