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Why people are at the heart of organisational transformation

Implementing change across an organisation is often perceived as an uncomfortable experience. No matter how big or small, it’s never easy.

As businesses today feel they need to operate 30 per cent faster to remain competitive, change is inevitable as traditional ways of working are challenged. Organisations need to be able to generate ideas and implement them at speed.

How do you implement structural change to reduce red tape across your organisation? We believe organisational agility is key.

At the recent Financial Times Innovation Dialogue 5: The Change Challenge event, we discussed how organisational agility is key to a successful business transformation. We drew on the findings from our recent report, The Evolution of the Agile Organisation, where we surveyed 500 leaders from some of the largest organisations across a range of sectors.

For each organisation we analysed 15 agile characteristics across five dimensions and found a strong positive correlation between agile characteristics and financial performance. These characteristics are: centre on your customer; speed up time to value; design for simplicity; build to evolve; and liberate your people.

When it comes to addressing change through agile ways of working, there’s no better place to start than with people: both your customers and your workforce.

Centre on your customer

Our research found that businesses with the highest levels of financial performance are more likely to be customer centric. Here are some ways you can channel the Agile Cohort:

  • Uncover ‘Dark Data’
    Many organisations are sitting on mountains of ‘Dark Data’. We estimate that most companies are only analysing five per cent of their data. Imagine the value in uncovering the insights in your unexplored data to drive better decisions. We help organisations to evaluate existing customer metrics and identify areas where insight is being missed to capture customer behaviours, experiences and needs.

  • Embrace a culture change
    Creating a truly customer-led culture may require your current company culture to be shaped. A shift in culture can include the reward and recognition of customer centric activities and behaviours; defining ‘customer promises’ in your job descriptions; and through updating core messaging in training and development.

  • Create tailored tools to support your message
    With any change, the more transparent you are about what’s required the more likely change is going to stick. Arming leaders with the support they need to implement change is crucial. We’ve worked with organisations to create best practice leadership hand-books; implemented development and coaching events to help leaders tell stories; and defined role model behaviours around customer obsession, through sharing listening techniques and tips for preparing for customer meetings.

 Liberate your people

The top-performing organisations in financial terms have made a conscious effort to focus on their workforce, putting them at the heart of what they do. Our experience bringing organisational agility into large-scale organisations can start with small steps, including:

  • Move away from traditional management styles
    Inherited management styles are directive rather than nurturing and enabling. We found that agile leaders create vision and inspiration for the organisation to connect with its core purpose. By 2020 it’s predicted millennials will make up over half of the entire global workforce. Research by Gallup shows millennialswant to be free of old workplace policies and performance management standards, and they expect leaders and managers to adapt.

  • Create space for innovation
    Whether it’s through a physical change in an office layout, a workshop or an internal unit that acts as a disrupter to other parts of the business, make space for your people to innovate. Your organisation must encourage a way of working that prizes cross-functional working and experimentation. Arranging people who are working together in the same space and creating office spaces where organic interactions occur – facilitating the exchange of new ideas – are characteristics of agile organisations.   

  • Build a ‘change army’
    No matter how much research you do, you will always encounter people concerned about change. Anticipate this and build a team of people who can help promote your organisational transformation and listen and feedback concerns throughout the entire change process. This group of people – your ‘change army’ – can help support the change cause and support other employees. This group will also be able to capture honest feedback that might otherwise be missed.

Did you know the top 10% of financial performers are 30% more agile than the rest?

Download report

Contact the authors

Contact the agile team

Sam Bunting

Sam Bunting

Stephen Hughes

Stephen Hughes

Conrad Thompson

Conrad Thompson


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