There’s nothing like the start of a new year for contemplating how ‘time seems to fly by,’ and to contemplate what the future might hold.
When I think back to when I was at school, careers advice was all about professions and languages. I was encouraged to realise the financial benefit of a ‘professional’ career or to become fluent in a business language to service the emerging international industrial and technical markets. Like all studious teenagers, I ignored this advice and did my own thing. Now I have my own children, I was intrigued to hear that conventional wisdom suggests that the jobs that they will do when they leave education probably haven’t even been invented yet. On reflection, I can believe it because I have experienced this phenomenon myself. The job I did two jobs ago (Talent Strategy) didn’t exist ten years ago.
This experience suggests that the rate of change is rising, and it is something that we are all experiencing. The first clue seems to be that the rate of change is outpacing the conventional timescales around role and individual review. The practical reality for many people is that their roles, which once remained relatively static over time, are now constantly evolving. The feedback loop is shorter and response time is shorter. Leadership roles have rarely ever been static and simple, but it is a challenge being faced by a whole new population as goals set at the start of the year are routinely old news by year end. In my experience, high performance in quickly evolving environments places a greater emphasis on the sort of behaviours that are traditional leadership strengths; a really broad market awareness, the curiosity to find out and the ability/confidence to make decisions.
The capacity for ‘professional agility’ is something we see time and time again, particularly with high potential individuals and leaders, but it is becoming an important skill for anyone wanting to perform in today’s world of work. It brings with it challenges, however.
Organisations need to function properly which requires that people work within a well known structure. A few isolated examples of agile or entrepreneurial behaviour are easily accommodated; everyone can think of someone at work who is well known for pushing the boundaries. For organisations to harness agility on a broader scale, it will require them to think carefully about the way they manage people, organisational communications and culture. Providing a stable, constant organisational structure around which teams of people can ‘flex’ and adapt autonomously is a real challenge.
Our experience tells us that change programmes risk coming unstuck when organisations fail to create the right environment for their people to change. If change is perennial, organisations may be required to rethink how they are organised, how they will manage people in the future and the way that decisions and control will be organised.
There are also implications for individuals. Managing an agile organisation means undertaking a shift in control. It is about giving people permission (and confidence) to act and change, and behaviour is hard to change in the short term. It means helping them effectively translate strategic goals into practical operating plans. Information about the organisation and the bigger picture needs to be systematically shared so people have a clear basis on which to act for themselves.
Leaders who want to enable their organisations to adopt a greater level of agility might want to think about…
Crelos are experts at supporting organisations through change. For more information on how we can help, please contact Leon Fisher, Client Director. 07912 194 946, firstname.lastname@example.org