As organizations flatten and delegate greater accountability, authority, and autonomy to the workforce, the role of people managers (as distinct from process managers) increases in importance. To their workforce, they are coaches and mentors who energize people, remove impediments, resolve conflicts, and communicate the corporate vision. The culture of the organization lives through them. There is also a large difference between people managers and traditional process managers, as we now expect the team to decide and self-correct their own work.
A recent Gallup study showed that only 12% of employees were actively engaged at work. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, it was people managers who made the biggest impact. Managers account for 70% of the variance in employee engagement.
At the pioneering end of business agility and, in particular, People Management, there is the concept of self-organization; teams or divisions where everyone takes on managerial responsibility. Self-organizing teams remain aligned to company strategy and expectations, by being accountable for specific, and measurable, business outcomes. And, although this requires a significant level of fluency across all business agility domains, self-organization takes the position that, as Druckerputs it:
Moving from Theory to Practice
Your goal is to create a supportive management layer.
Develop an Agile Mindset
An agile mindset and culture is a central tenet of business agility and is one of the first areas that you need to encourage in your leaders. Redesign your corporate policies and governance structures to promote a growth mindset, a sense of unity and single purpose, and personal ownership of work outcomes. If business agility is truly important to your organization, managers must model an agile mindset to their teams.
Empathy, the ability to understand and relate to the feelings, thoughts, and experiences of another person, is a critical skill for leaders in all organizations. This is especially true for leaders in agile organizations. As leadership in these organizations shifts from a top-down command and control structure to one where authority is delegated and teams and individuals self manage, the ability to lead effectively becomes increasingly more about influence and persuasion. Agile leaders must be able to relate to those they wish to influence to be successful.
The most powerful place to start is to change from delegating actions to delegating outcomes. You hire great people and expect them to be professional, competent, and develop expertise. Then you tell them what to do; “I need this report by Friday”. Instead, give people ownership of outcomes; “we need to convince our executives to fund this initiative”.
This shift is paramount to building an agile organization. As the closest people to the customer, your teams have the greatest operational knowledge. Thus, the operational decision of what work to do (and when) should sit with the team. Whereas, the people manager communicates the strategic vision, sets the business outcome & associated metrics, and then ensures that the team has everything that they need to achieve the outcome.
Measuring your Business Agility Maturity
|Managers care that people have relevant and up-to-date skills and are competent to do their job.||Managers coach individuals and develop complementary skills and behaviors (e.g. diversity & inclusion, resilience, recognizing cognitive biases, etc.).||Managers actively invest in understanding the whole person; beyond just skills and capability.||Managers believe that part of their role is to develop people (e.g. through clear and constructive feedback) to be the best version of themselves.|
Autonomy & Delegation
|Leaders delegate work to their teams with clear expectations of how to deliver it||Leaders support teams in localizing operational decision-making (within the team) to reduce the lines of communication and subsequent delays incurred.||Leaders focus on team autonomy & individual security, growing the talent of their teams, reducing skills gaps, and removing any impediments in their way.||Teams are empowered & accountable for deciding how to achieve the business outcomes (what work to do, which product to build, etc.) in alignment with their mission.|
- Shipping is NOT Success, Let it Sail
- Evolving from Waterfall to Agile Strategic Planning in a Social Services Agency
- New Zealand Post Group - An Agile Executive
- Agile Governance: not an oxymoron by Bala Bulusu
- Reality Bites and Stranger Things
- Sustaining Happiness Once You Have It
- Boost Business Agility with Contemporary HR Practices
- The Agile Leadership Coaching Toolkit helps Essex Students’ Union align to strategy
- From solo artists to an orchestra; a journey toward playing as an ensemble
- The Yin and Yang of Speed and Control
- Haier Elevation
- Are you ready to be a butterfly?
- The Age of the Self-Managed Organization
- Open Salaries - From employees to managing partners by Alexey Voronin
- The Buurtzorg Story
- A Story of Leadership Transformation
- CxO - You are your organisation's Product Manager by Tze Chin Tang
- Business Agility Within A Regulated Utility by Lisa Smith
- The 22000 Persons Start-up
- Marsha Z Shenk - Curiosity is Your Silver Bullet
- Leading Within by Andrea Provaglio
- What is Business Agility?
- Deming’s 14 points to managers for transforming business effectiveness
- Structuring Your Business for Agility
- From Hierarchy to High Performance with Doug Kirkpatrick
- Certain Uncertainty by Evan Leybourn
- BOSSAnova - Company-wide Agility with Beyond Budgeting, Open Space & Sociocracy by Jutta Eckstein
- Designing Organizations That Work for Lean and Agile Thinking People
- The Hidden Variable
- Agile Leadership by Zuzi Sochova
- Leading when you're not the boss?
- The Curious Leader by Judith Mills
- Pia-Maria Thorén - There is only intrinsic motivation
- Leading with and in tension by Olaf Lewitz
- Beyond Budgeting – Business Agility the C-level Understand (and Are Starting to Like)
- The Social Brain is the Big Boss by Marsha Shenk
- Founder’s Mentality and Micro-battles: Summary
- Maker Time vs Manager Time
- Adaptive Leadership and Value Innovation
- Everyone Is A Designer by Liam Hutchinson
- Agile Lighthouse: MVV as a Beacon for your Agile Transformation
- Innovation Agility – Who Says the Corporate Behemoth Can’t Achieve
- Diamonds on the Soles of Your Shoes by Gracie Koester
- Leadership Agility in a VUCA World
- Agility - Not Enough? Too Much? Trying to Find Just Right
Books & Book Reviews
- Beyond Empowerment
- Kaizen - The Key To Japan's Competitive Success
- Out of the Crisis
- Reinventing Organisations
- High Output Management by Andrew Grove
- The Art of Action by Stephen Bungay
- Company-wide Agility with Beyond Budgeting, Open Space & Sociocracy
- Directing the Agile Organisation
- The New Economics for Industry, Government, Education
- The Confidence Code
- Management - Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices
- Focused Fast and Flexible by Tom O'Shea and Nick Horney
- Implementing Beyond Budgeting - Unlocking the Performance Potential
- The Leader's Guide to Radical Management
- Agile Value Delivery - Beyond the Numbers
- Certain to Win by Chet Richards
- Elina Razdobarina Helps Create Orgs that Don’t Suck
- Renee Troughton on Uncomfortable Conversations and Agile Transformations
- Author Stephen Parry Says: Don’t Implement – Grow!
- Limitations & Opportunities of Neurophysiology with Marsha Shenk
- Job Interview Techniques for Agile Teams with Jason Tice
- Bill Joiner, Leadership Agility and Agile Companies Outperforming Competitors
- Beyond Budgeting 101 with Nevine White and Mike De Luca
- Transforming GE into a Lean Startup with Lars Bruns and Sudhir Nelvagal
- Ghosts of Company Past and Future with Melissa Boggs
- Phil Abernathy on KPI Madness and Maze Runners
- Agile HR & People Operations with Fabiola Eyholzer
Join the Business Agility Community
If you'd like to continue the conversation with like minded individuals around Leadership Agility, join the Business Agility slack community. Specifically the #leadership channel.
This section is currently un-stewarded. If you have a passion for this space and would like to take ownership for the guidance and insights within, please contact Evan Leybourn. The stewards of the Business Agility Library are leaders in their field and we quite literally couldn't create such amazing content without their support. These people & organisations are leaders in the community and, through their actions and insights, continue to expand the horizon of business agility for us all.