Organisational Agility Blog 6: People

As we have discussed in this blog series over the past few days, many steps can be taken to build organisational agility into business operations, processes and strategies. We have looked at Planning, Market & Customers, Delivery, Data & Tech, but very often some of the biggest challenges to overcome and those that will ultimately drive the above can be to do with our people.

Embracing organisational agility can require significant flexibility and change – both in the practical way that things get done and in staff mindset and approach. The Covid pandemic is an excellent example that we can all relate to.

Very suddenly, businesses and their teams needed to adapt to a completely different way of working - from the rapid and universal adoption of remote working technology to maintaining customer and colleague relationships through collaboration from our homes.

For organisations who had already embraced agile working (and depending on what sector they are in), this sudden change may not have had such a detrimental impact to their businesses. For others however, their organisational in-agility and lack of flexibility in the workforce may have been a hinderance in very difficult circumstances.

If that’s the case, how can greater flexibility in teams promote greater organisational agility so you can successfully cope with change? And how can people prepare themselves and be ready to adapt?

T-shaped people

It is widely agreed that there are two main groups of people in organisations; those who are specialists and those who are generalists. Both are equally invaluable to businesses and are essential in our teams. Traditionally, we might have viewed individuals as either of these categories – and often job specifications outlined attributes in one or the other.

Being T-shaped however recognises how individuals can be both, for example, they offer not only deep expertise in an area (the vertical T bar, specialist), but also a broad range of skills in other areas (the horizontal T bar, generalist).

In a changing business world, it can be argued that T-shaped people are those who can be most valuable in agile organisations. Having a T-shaped people culture in organisations can promote greater creativity, better problem solving and solution finding, greater resilience and greater collaboration.

In organisations ready to embrace agility, starting with people can help build the foundations to other areas discussed in this blog series. Anyone can develop themselves into being T-shaped, whether they are a generalist or a specialist. Shifting a whole team or workforce to working in a holistic T-shaped culture is a much bigger task and one that requires commitment over a long term.

However, the benefits to this can be hugely significant. In a rapidly changing world where we face pandemics, advancing AI and climate change, it will be the most agile organisations and their people who will continue to endure and thrive.

If you have any questions regarding the topics in this blog, please contact Alasdair Green.

You can read the next blog in the series here

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