The C-suite has the power to shape culture, influence purchasing decisions, rebuild workforces and generate revenue. Yet when it comes to encouraging agility, many prefer to take a back seat. That has to change if organizations are to respond faster to changing market conditions, adapt to consumer preferences and increase profitability.
In fact, according to a Forbes Insights survey, the C-suite plays an integral role in driving adoption of agility across the enterprise: 35% of the more than 1,000 executives surveyed say the CEO is responsible for organizational agility, and 87% view the CEO as the biggest proponent of organizational agility.
So how can C-level executives update their thinking and collaborate with business line leaders to drive adoption of agility across their enterprise? Here are three steps for building an Agile-friendly C-suite.
1. Practice What You Preach: The actions and behaviors of a C-level executive can make or break an Agile transformation. As a result, it’s critical that leaders take ownership for supporting agility, leading the change every day and through every action. By discussing how Agile can help teams achieve their goals, providing teams with the support and space to do a job well, and publicly demonstrating their own journey to change, C-level executives can garner buy-in from teams and accompany them on the path to becoming an Agile organization. After all, says John Miller, an Agile coach with Agile For All, “the most successful organizations have Agile champions in the C suite.”
2. Determine What It Takes To Succeed: What does it take to become an Agile C-level executive? A staggering 83% of those surveyed by Forbes Insights cite an Agile mindset/flexibility as the most important characteristic of today’s CXO—placing the primacy of this trait over and above the ability to manage and attract talent (cited by 79%) and be a great communicator (76%).
But not all CXOs are confident they have what it takes to become an Agile leader. Some worry that making the transition to Agile will undermine their power and influence. Others fear that they lack the right skills to lead in an Agile environment. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of classes, workshops, coaching and training modules available to help C-level executives learn the value and key principles of Agile.
Working with an Agile coach can also teach executives what to expect as their organizations transition to Agile—and what is expected from them as leaders. Together, executives can work with employees on pilot projects that gradually introduce them to the concept of Agile, allow them to experiment to see what issues might arise and teach them to address these issues ahead of time.
3. Consider A Team-Based CEO Strategy: To tweak an old adage, sometimes it takes a village to build an Agile-friendly C-suite. Consider, for example, Scrum Alliance. When its interim leader left the non-profit and certification organization, the board made a bold decision: adopt a collaborative, team-based CEO approach.
While the organization continued its search for a leader, this unconventional strategy enabled it to keep up the momentum of Agile projects and finalize its search for a CEO. For example, over a period of just a few months, Scrum Alliance developed and executed a campaign to strengthen relationships with more than 10,000 certificants. In the past, the project would have required input from multiple departments, as well as various meetings and several stages of approval—a months-long undertaking.
The team-based CEO approach, which comprises three senior leaders representing key functional areas, has also proven more inclusive—drawing staff leadership teams into board conversations while building trust, greater transparency and more openness across the organization. The organization is carrying that concept even further, now, by creating a unique leadership team model.
Another advantage: the cultural impact a team-based approach (like the one Scrum Alliance has employed) is having on organizations. Culture is key to supporting an Agile enterprise: 65% of survey respondents agree that their culture is an asset to the organization, and 66% consider agility an essential part of their company’s DNA. By building an Agile C-suite through teamwork, the cultural implications are clear.
Notes Eric Engelmann, chairman of the board for Scrum Alliance, in an article posted on Medium.com, “The team CEO has been powerful to see both in culture and in action. Culturally, it has bolstered teamwork and agility. At play, it has helped Scrum Alliance move projects forward, share information and deliver value to our community faster than ever before.”
Together, these three steps can create an Agile-friendly C-suite: one that not only understands the values and principles of Agile but uses them to drive the organization forward and generate bottom-line benefits.
To learn more, read “The Elusive Agile Enterprise: How the Right Leadership Mindset, Workforce and Culture Can Transform Your Organization.”