Getting ready for our Business Agility journey: Equipping our managers

10th June 2021

April’s Business Agility blog talked about why and how we’ve embarked on our own journey to become more agile, promising to share the progress, challenges and achievements we encounter along the way. Copyright © 2021 Karim Harbott. All Rights Reserved.

To help guide us, we’ve been using the six enablers of business agility – the foundation blocks on which an agile organisation is built  – reviewing each in turn and assessing our own performance against them; where we’re doing well and where we need to focus our attention.

For the purpose of this blog, our first port of call is the ‘leadership & management’ enabler.  This challenges us to move away from more traditional, task-focused management to one which enables, encourages and supports; where decisions are decentralised as far as is possible, and teams and individuals are empowered to achieve their objectives without micro-management.

For many, this will be a significant change.  And not just for the manager: often individuals are used to a more passive role in decision-making and task delivery, looking to their managers for direction on not just what their task is but how it should be achieved.

Here at CMC, we have a relatively flat structure and most teams and individuals are used to working fairly autonomously, with the support and guidance of their managers.  However, this is not consistently applied and there are differences in the experience of line management from team to team.  The education and support of our line managers has become an integral part of our business agility journey.

If we want our managers to support and encourage our staff, we must first encourage and support our managers…

With this in mind, earlier this year, the CMC Line Managers’ Forum came into being.  Its primary purpose is to continually improve standards and ensure a consistency of approach and communication; however, it’s also the place to share knowledge, call on the wider group’s experience to resolve challenges, and stimulate action. Our core values of integrity, curiosity & respect ensure that attendees come along knowing there is psychological safety: they are free to express their thoughts, table new ideas, and explore and learn from ‘failures’. The importance of this forum is emphasised by the attendance of our Managing Director; there to provide strategic context as well as listen and pay attention to managers’ insights. The forum operates an alternate agenda every fortnight: the first meeting of the month looks at standing items, common issues, staff wellbeing and talent management, for example.  The second is an opportunity to discuss and explore: recent topics have included assessing training needs, HR policies and managing performance.

Delegating authority

The forum has also helped shine a light on how we make some of our decisions: are they taking place at the right level in the organisation?  By the right people? One such area is how professional development opportunities are agreed: Previously the remit of senior leaders, this is now the responsibility of line managers in discussion with their direct reports. With an in depth knowledge of both business strategy and the individual’s work, capabilities and ambitions, the line manager, is able identify the appropriate course of action.  Assured that discussions have taken place to assess development needs, identify activities to achieve them and, importantly, ensure they align with business strategy, senior leads can confidently just deal with budget and scheduling.


Investing in formal training

We want our managers to have a clear understanding of how business agility applies to their role.  So last month, eighteen of us – from Managing Director to Line Manager and Account Manager – attended the   This pacy, two-day course helped us understand what is meant by agile leadership and also introduced us to a wide variety of tools and techniques that support high-performing, engaging, agile teams and organisations.

It was good to see commonality in our individual view of CMC’s agile capability and where, and how, we saw this capability developing.  There were also plenty of aha! moments for us all as we saw our own management styles through the lens of case studies and frameworks.  For those of us who are consultants as well as managers, the CAL course also provided additional understanding of our customers’ cultures and behaviours. We hope that these insights will lead to us being better able to support our customers.

The true test for any training course is how we apply our learning after we’ve returned to our normal day-to-day work. This is always challenging!  We often come away from a training course full of enthusiasm and good intention but find ourselves being sucked back into our workloads.  To put the brakes on this, all CAL attendees have already met to discuss how and where we can effectively apply our learning – it’s important for us to take advantage of our post-course enthusiasm and momentum.

What’s next?

In this blog we’ve looked at business agility from the perspective of leaders and managers – next time we’ll be looking at how we’re engaging with our employees in our journey to become more agile.

Interested to find out more? You can read other blogs in this series from  :
‘Who leads in agile world?’ by John Daley
‘Failure and Agility – they go hand in hand’ by Mick Brian
‘Team work makes the dream work’ and ‘How agile is your business?’ by Lyn Girvan
‘Business Agility – CMC’s own journey’ by Sandra Lowe

By Sandra Lowe, Communications Specialist at CMC Partnership Consultancy Ltd