Leadership Agility: What You Need to Know

What is Leadership Agility?

In today's complex, turbulent, and competitive business and technology environment, leaders need to master the skills required to become more proactive, collaborative, creative, and agile. Leadership agility is the core competency of agile leaders to make effective decisions, inspire others, bring others along, build the best team, be proactive, develop a culture of teamwork, define objectives, and contribute to strategic initiatives for the enterprise.

 

"Agility is fundamental to leading a team through times of change." - Sandra E. Peterson

 

What drives Leadership Agility?

Leaders' agility is the core reason behind the success of any enterprise or business. Some of the common drivers of leadership agility are listed as below:

 

Being a change agent

With this fast-paced environment, leaders need to accept that change is inevitable, and be prepared to embrace change. For an organizational change to be effective, leaders should initiate and respond to change quickly. If people believe in your decision-making skills, they will trust your ability to drive the change. 

 

Employees need leaders who are committed to their success, seek feedback, make tough decisions, and communicate openly. Leaders who show personal commitment to change and inspire others to accept change play a critical role as change agents for the organization.

 

"If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary." - Jim Rohn

 

Setting a vision and inspiring others

Leaders have a vision that inspires and brings people together. Leaders understand the importance of setting a shared purpose for their teams. Their vision is manifested in their actions and their goals. 

 

"Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion." - Jack Welch

 

Leaders should strongly believe in their vision. The vision should reflect organizational purpose, motivate colleagues, display the organization's values, and explain the WHYs.

 

Creating a culture of openness, collaboration, and trust

Every agile leader must foster an open environment of trust and collaboration where people can freely discuss their ideas, experiment with their designs, collaborate, have the freedom to make mistakes, and have fun together. 

 

"You need to be aware of what others are doing, applaud their efforts, acknowledge their successes, and encourage them in their pursuits. When we all help one another, everybody wins." - Jim Stovall

 

Decentralizing decisions where possible

Decentralized decisions reduce unnecessary delays and improve the flow of work. Agile leaders must understand when and which decisions they must decentralize. Frequent or time-critical decisions that need local context should be decentralized. Other decisions that are long-lasting and have a huge impact should remain centralized. Decentralized decisions empower the team to make decisions.

 

Embracing Lean-Agile Principles

Successful leaders embrace lean thinking and lean principles outlined by the House of Lean such as Kaizen (continuous improvement), respect for people, teamwork, innovation, sustainable flow, and Genchi Genbutsu (go and see). Lean thinking encourages leaders to embrace core values such as respect, integrity, empathy, collaboration, and teamwork. 

 

“Success today requires the agility and drive to constantly rethink, reinvigorate, react, and reinvent." - Bill Gates

 

Agile leaders embrace the values written in the Agile Manifesto and promote the 12 Agile principles across their teams. If you are interested to read about 12 Agile Principles, check out this article on Medium.

 

Check out my published books on Agile and Lean:

 

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Enterprise Agility – Expectations Vs Reality

What is Enterprise Agility? What are the expectations vs the reality of Enterprise Agility (EA)? This article covers the six pillars of EA that sums up the expectations or the future state along with the actual state of things.

"The rate of change is not going to slow down anytime soon. If anything, competition in most industries will probably speed up even more in the next few decades." - John P. Kotter

 

Enterprise Agility - Expectations

Enterprise Agility is centered on the ability of an enterprise to quickly respond to change. Agile enterprises are expected to have:

  • Planning Agility
  • Funding Agility
  • Team Agility
  • Technical Agility
  • Leadership Agility
  • HR Agility

 

Planning Agility

The planning agility represents the flexibility of an enterprise to change its priorities considering changing market conditions or emerging technology trends. The expectation is that an enterprise is able to reprioritize and realign its business priorities quickly with changing market conditions or customers' preferences.

 

Funding Agility

This is closely related to the planning agility. In order to quickly adapt to changing market conditions or emerging technologies, an enterprise must have the flexibility to move its funds or resources around, across teams, departments, and products, depending on the need.

 

Team Agility

Enterprise agility can only be achieved when all teams across an enterprise have adopted the agile mindset, values, and principles. For a team to be agile, they must adapt to change, learn to collaborate, self-organize their work, and consistently deliver high-quality work to generate business value.

 

Technical Agility

Teams achieve technical agility by leveraging engineering practices to deliver high-quality products quickly. Some of these practices include continuous focus to architecture and quality design, test-driven development (TDD), behavior-driven development (BDD), continuous integration (CI), continuous deployment (CD), creating unit tests, and ensuring code quality.

 

Leadership Agility

This is an important competency for enterprise executives and leaders to develop. Leadership agility is the ability to make effective decisions, inspire people, and act with an understanding of what it takes to lead in a rapidly-changing world. With more agility, leaders become more collaborative and proactive in leading teams and driving organizational changes.

 

HR Agility

In an agile enterprise, it is important to integrate HR and other supporting departments such as Finance, Sales, Marketing, etc. with the product development process and introduce agility into their work.

 

Enterprise Agility - The Reality

But, are enterprises “truly agile”? Are you able to quickly adapt to the changing market conditions or emerging technology trends? When your corporate strategy/goals shift, how soon will the change flow from the corporate level to your own products? How soon will funds move from one product to another or from one release train to another?

Let's take a step back and think - does your roadmap even align with your corporate goals? How often do you revisit your product roadmap?

The reality is that change is slow. Larger the organization, more difficult it is to be agile. If the enterprise has adopted Scrum or Kanban, or SAFe, it doesn’t mean that they can quickly adapt to change. With SAFe, the product priorities are revisited on PI boundaries, thus it could take around 10-12 weeks to realign priorities. It may take even more time to move funds and resources between different departments. Enterprises often compromise their agility to have the desired predictability.

 

Post your comments on the expectations vs the reality of Enterprise Agility. Also, check out my latest book, Enterprise Agility with OKRs.

 

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More Books by Aditi Agarwal on Agile and Lean: