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Tom Fielder

LDL Leadership Development

Marketing Manager

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How to be more ‘agile’ – 3 talent management tips


Have you heard about ‘agile’? It’s a concept that has been revolutionising the tech and IT worlds over the past 25-30 years, and now looks set to transform a broad range of industries and functions too.

Agile (adj.) a style of project management, used especially for software development, which involves dividing tasks into short phases of work, and frequently reassessing and adapting plans.

Speed is certainly an essential business currency in today's fast-moving marketplace. No matter if you are a salesperson trying to put together a proposal for a major new deal, or a leader trying to develop and realise a vision for the future, there is simply no time to lose. 

Should you move twice as fast, or simply move smarter?

In Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, he tells the story of the Red Queen's race, in which Alice finds herself constantly running, but somehow remaining in the same spot. "In our country" says Alice, "you'd generally get to somewhere else—if you run very fast for a long time, as we've been doing". "A slow sort of country!" replies the Queen. "Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!"

Like Alice, individuals and organisations in today's business environment find that they need to move fast just to stay in the same place.

But this does not mean that you need to move twice as fast as you are already in order to make any significant progress. Instead you can make progress by being a bit smarter about where you are going and how you are going to get there. In other words, be a bit more 'agile'. 

How to become more agile

The shift toward ‘agile’ principles in organisations today essentially involves moving away from command-and-control styles of management towards a faster model driven by users, with flexibility given for individuals and teams to frequently reassess and adapt their plans. The idea here is that these more agile practices can help individuals and organisations become more innovative and responsive to change.

These agile principles are as applicable to sales and leadership teams as to product development. Agile is not about getting everyone to move twice as fast, but making it possible for people and their teams to move with more agility and intelligence. 

Talent management – feedback and coaching

One way in which agile practices are changing businesses and HR in particular is in the whole area of talent management. In fact, because long-term planning has become increasingly difficult in today’s business environment, the traditional annual performance review is no longer suitable for many organisations. 

Instead, individuals need access to a more agile system of talent management with more immediate coaching and feedback available throughout the year, often delivered project by project, so that they and their teams can become nimbler, ‘course-correct’ mistakes and improve performance.

To make this transition to a more 'agile' system of talent and performance management effectively, the most successful companies invest in sharpening their managers' coaching skills.

Here are three talent management tips:

  1. Move from judging to coaching

Encourage managers to move away from judging employees towards coaching them in their day-to-day work. The aim for managers as coaches should be to ask questions rather than dictate answers, and to take an interest in employees' lives and careers.

  1. Be a connector

Be a connector and make expertise available. As a manager you should be ready to admit when you don't have all the answers, and willing to connect employees with colleagues who face similar challenges or who may have the expertise to be able to help.

  1. Focus on teams

Focus on teams rather than just individuals. With more and more work carried out at the team level, managers need to develop their ability to build effective team dynamics, for example by becoming more familiar with organising multi-directional feedback.

Could you become more agile?

Whatever your goals are, you don’t need to move twice as fast in order to make progress, either as an individual or as an organisation. Instead, think about how you can move a little smarter. The methodologies of agile offer a roster of ideas, in areas ranging from organisational structure to management and coaching styles, for any person or organisation looking to move smarter in today’s fast-changing business environment.

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Tom Fielder

Marketing Manager

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