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Why agility should be on your board agenda

Why agility should be on your board agenda

Throughout the 80s and 90s we witnessed a throng of small, family-owned businesses closing up shop thanks to the sharp rise of international retail chains and department stores. In the 00’s and 10’s the same thing happened to these retailers, who struggled to compete with global internet giants like Amazon, ASOS and Etsy.

Nowadays, we are living in a business environment where change and disruption have become the new norm. In fact, a recent report by Forbes Insights/Treasure Data found just over a half (51%) of business executives reported a high level of risk to their organisation (in terms of market share and revenue) over the next five years from technology-driven disruption by start-ups or innovations by incumbent companies.

The Founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab, said “It isn’t the biggest fish eating the smaller fish anymore, but the fastest fish that wins.”

To cope with constant change, there’s a growing awareness for organisations to embrace agility and speed – something which is clearly easier said than done. A study by Gallup found only 16% of employees from organisations in the UK, Germany, France and Spain believe their organisations have both the mindset and the right tools and processes to respond quickly to business needs.

Morgan Philips’ expert team of business psychologists define agility as “the ability to work with insight, flexibility and confidence in response to challenging and changing circumstances.”

Improve collaboration across teams

Open-plan offices are in vogue (and have been for some time). So are breakout spaces, hot desks and, in some more extreme cases, office slides. 

But the theory behind open-plan office spaces rests on more than a superficial design trend, or on the desire to reduce overhead costs by crowding everyone into the one room. 

There’s a real advantage in encouraging collaboration across teams, which is significantly easier to achieve when everyone’s in the same room. A study by the Institute for Corporate Productivity found companies that promote collaborative working are five times as likely to be high performing.

An agile organisation is one that collaborates together. By working together to overcome obstacles or respond to challenges, employees are able to break away from often-constricting siloed structures to react faster and reach their objectives.

And, when it comes to taking on board new team members or developing your existing employees, organisations that put agility front and centre are better positioned to benefit from a higher-performing workforce.

Agile workers are intellectually curious, ready to learn from others, communicative, willing to change and, more importantly, collaborative. 

Stay ahead of the competition

Collaborating with different teams or functions requires people to find out how other parts of the business work, and consider how it relates back to their own roles. From a learner perspective, this experience makes them better at carrying out their own jobs, and it also enables them to contribute better ideas.  

To encourage agility, and subsequently, the generation of innovative new ideas, you’ll need to establish a culture where employees can suggest original approaches without the fear of failure – as learning, failing and growing are all part of the creative process. And it’s not just about new ideas; you’ll also need to create an environment where people feel empowered to put their ideas into action, even if they don’t reap the immediate results you’re looking to achieve.

Concerningly, the Gallup study found only one in four employees "strongly agree" that their company creates an environment where they can try, fail and learn from their mistakes – meaning there’s lots of room for improvement.

Put the customer first

In today’s business world, there’s a strong demand from customers for greater transparency, integrity and empathy from the organisations they choose to do business with. 

Agile workers are fast-moving, adaptable and innovative – they’re also highly attuned to the needs and experiences of their customers. 

According to the Gallup figures, employees are far more likely to do “what is right” for their customers if they belong to an agile organisation. The majority (51%) of employees who believe their company is able to respond quickly to business needs (i.e. agile organisations) strongly agree that their coworkers always do what is right for customers. That figure drops down to 33% among employees in the "partly agile" category and about one-fifth (21%) among those who do not view their companies as agile.

Their greater focus on doing the right thing for customers may help explain why employees in agile companies are more confident in their organisations' competitiveness and financial performance.

At Morgan Philips Talent Consulting, we’re big believers in the importance of agility, both from an individual, group and organisational perspective. That’s why we’ve placed agility at the very heart of our new talent model, which takes into consideration inner agility and outer agility to understand how we think about business and, consequently, how we behave in response. 

To find out more about building an agile workforce, download our free Agility Executive Briefing.

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