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Future-proofing organisations with agile leadership

Can business transformation happen in an empty office? Companies of all sizes with a remote workforce have proven that we don’t need people in the office to make rapid changes – what they need is an agile mindset and structure that will allow them to thrive even beyond a global pandemic.

According to a Harvard Business School research, companies that had launched agile transformations pre Covid-19 performed better and moved faster during Covid-19 than those that had not, as they already had cross-functional teams and clear data that proved critical to adapting to the pandemic - and therefore adjusted faster and better.

Changing how we see change

In the middle of a Covid-induced recession, and with prolonged periods of uncertainty, change is no longer about making things better — it’s essential for survival. But traditional change management initiatives often characterised by complicated processes and lengthy timelines are no longer serving their purpose. As organisations fundamentally rethink their offering, reinvent their supply chains, and rebuild their organisational culture, the type of change leadership required is rapid, agile, and, to a large extend, virtual.

The need for speed is not temporary and new trends like digitisation and automation will only continue to accelerate in the evolving workplace. Organisations that were set up for speed are already seeing positive outcomes, not just in better performance, but also improved cost efficiency and revenue. What made a difference to those organisations wasn’t a predefined response plan, but the leadership behaviours and mindsets that prevented them from overreacting to yesterday’s developments and allowed them to look ahead.

A recent McKinsey research shows that agile companies have outperformed others in adapting to Covid-19, but the organisations going agile face the challenge of reimagining themselves around customer journeys, products, and value creation, all of which require transitioning from multi-layered functional organisations into simpler forms. Of course, most businesses would prefer to transform themselves under quieter conditions, but many agile organisations already acknowledge that such times may never return. Agile leaders also see positive forces at play now, as the turbulence has made it easier to challenge the status quo and to reinvent the way work is done.

Measuring the impact of agility

Agile organisations focus on speed during normal times as well, not just during a crisis. One common measure is how much time elapses between the identification of an issue or opportunity and the delivery of the solution. The time it takes an a team to release a solution is determined by two factors: the time required to work on the innovation and the time spent waiting on others. These include delays caused by processes, such as strategic planning calendars, approval processes, budgeting and funding cycles. Most teams spend only 15 to 20 percent of their time working and the rest is spent on waiting – showing us that by making processes and behaviours more agile in the long term, we are quickly able to see improved performance and business results.

Change, by its nature, leaves people and organisations feeling confused and vulnerable at a time when resilience and collaboration are necessary to perform at the highest levels, in a complex and uncertain economy, that requires constant learning and agility. At Acumen, we pride ourselves in offering development that gives managers practical tools to help solve real-life challenges. We offer an extensive menu of courses, workshops and coaching programmes, ranging from communication skills through to executive leadership development. In most cases, we design the interventions specifically for each client, but we also offer a wide range of off-the-shelf programmes for those who prefer this approach. For more information about our programmes please contact Simon at


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