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How to Pull off a Quick Switch to Agile and Leave Your Competitors Lagging Behind

Don't know where your organisation stand in such turbulent times? With Covid-19 reshaping our economy, how can we do better to move ahead from this disruptive phenomenon?

In the following article, Prof. Dr. Mark Bussin suggested a few ways you and your organisation can continuously think on your feet and embrace agility in organisation design!


Article by Prof. Dr. Mark Bussin

With the modernisation of the world, not only has the technological scope changed, but so has that of business processes in general. Evolutionary theory hypothesised that we may have been related to monkey’s- its proof resting on the fact that as our needs transformed, so did our bodies. For instance, monkey’s need tails to climb trees. As we evolved, our need to climb trees dwindled, leaving us to rely more on our heal bone to stand. Our tails thus diminished to a stub, leaving just a prodding out coccyx. This theory carries over to the workplace as continual technology improvement has shifted our world at such haste that competition has evolved to a global level, forcing us to change every means by which we function.

Evolution has thus brought us to the age of agility where “fast and flexible” is the key to survival. The strongest survivors are those that have implemented agility in all areas of business function- from performance management to remuneration. For an agile organisation that will leave competitors lagging, follow these steps:

Step 1: Implement Agile in Management

The latest trend is to transition strict management styles into a more communicative and reciprocal style. For instance, where performance evaluation was once a stressful and dreaded task for employees, managers are encouraged to adopt a mentor role with a more positive air. Rather than criticising employees’ performance, managers are required to be actively involved, supporting them along the way and providing mentorship. This creates a freer environment which opens the doors to a learning environment. Organisational culture becomes of a reciprocal nature, where learning is encouraged and shared and initiates innovation among employees. Furthermore, it leads to greater productivity from the support and positive environment they experience.

A suggestion is to coach managers to become mentors. Training may include educating managers in the realm of establishing goals and priorities; merging personal goals with business goals, and learning and development goals; as well as quality feedback provision.

Step 2: Implement Agile Using Teams

Business has taken the route of agility by the means of teams. Teams have become more commonplace whereby they are formed to complete a project and disperse thereafter. This means the way traditional feedback worked, has been replaced by a more dispersed system. 360 degree feedback has become more prominent, replacing the upward hierarchical feedback structure. Peers in teams are required to provide feedback to one another for the sake of uplifting the whole team, as a member that lags, prohibits development for every member of the team. This allows for hastier feedback and the allowance of quick adaptation as soon as the information is received.

The use of technology further improves the process as an application may capture the information provided in team meetings for a simple summary of excessive amounts of information and determination of yard sticks to ensure that they have not strayed too far from the goal posts. If so, a quick correction can be made to get back on track as opposed to losing an abundance of time and pointless effort. Management can also be alerted of the teams’ progress by a simple notification, speeding up the supervision process and the apps may even allow for the recording of individual progress. Managers can simply download the data of each individual when it comes to performance review time. The quick access and ability to contribute to the data on the app also means that employees, supervisors and clients can provide feedback at any time from anywhere- a frontrunner in agility.

Step 3: Recruit by the Means of Agile

The modern day has lead to the increase of a work-life balance desire and therefore flexitime jobs. The younger working generations also have a different value system to those of the older working generation who sought to find a job at a company, work their way up the ladder and retire from that same company. The younger generations value diverse education and experience and will therefore work at several different companies in their lifetime as well as undergoing several career changes. This means that short-term job roles are sought after. Recruitment should thus be directed toward these individuals and their expectations.

Step 4: Remunerate According to Agile

Remuneration is another crucial step in turning your company agile. This is because it plays such a major role in the motivation and productivity of workers. Different pay techniques need to be aligned with different business objectives. The main business objective is now to become agile. Thus, one must remunerate to support agility- to encourage innovation, speed and motivation. There is a simple method to this means. The general rule of thumb is that feedback is most effective when it is fresh. Thus, reward is most effective when it is fresh. Behaviour has the tendency to be reinforced when recognised immediately. This is why a bonus at the end of the year is less effective than an immediate reward received after the appropriate goal or behaviour has been achieved. Year-end bonuses are ineffective due to too much time passing by. Salary survey data, such as that on Paterson Points, can be accessed to determine compliance with market-rates for a guide on how much to actually reward.

Step 5: Use Agile Learning and Developmental Techniques

To be able to keep on ones toes and respond at record speed, the necessary learning and development are prerequisite. Learning and development initiatives need to be directed at the project in question and the specific skills that need to be brought into the organisation. Artificial intelligence has even advanced to the stage where animated simulations can be depicted, acting out the appropriate behaviour in support of this.


It is important to note that not only should agility be utilised in the core business function areas, but in every area of the company in general. The above mentioned steps can be used as a template for implementing agility but it won’t hurt to come up with your own ideas to further implementing agility in your company. Just remember, each step towards agility is a step to success.

So what then, are the implications for HR?

Well, the switch to an agile organisation requires that HR continues to provide the very same services it always has… recruitment and selection, training, remuneration, performance management and so forth, but these have to all be adapted to the changes in the rest of the organisational system in order for the organisation to be able to transition to agile effectively and to succeed.

Agile may very well be your boost to becoming the leader of the pack.


Check out Prof. Dr. Mark Bussin's Masterclass on Organisation Design in Turbulent Times and find out more on how you can anticipate mega-trends and changes. To learn how to design in this age of disruption, click here!

Alternatively, you can sign up now here!


About Prof. Dr. Mark Bussin, BSc, HDPM, MM, M.Com, D.Com GRP CCP FIoD

Mark is an experienced Remuneration and management consultant and business owner, and is an academic at 6 different universities. He is an Adviser to the Government of South Africa and Kenya, and he continues to serve on and advise numerous Boards, Audit and Compensation Committees (including Impala Platinum Holdings Limited, a listed company and second largest platinum mine in the world) and Standard Bank, to name a few. With a firm understanding of business, management, and board level decision making, Mark is a practicing consultant whose services are engaged by government and corporate entities. Previously, he was an ex-shareholder of Price Waterhouse London, and has held management roles in MNCs in Resources, FMCG and Financial Services industries.

As the Chairman of 21st Century (Pty) Ltd, one of the largest Remuneration and HR consultancies in Africa, he leads a team of more than 60 specialists, serving over 1700 clients – including non-profit organisations, private companies, government, parastatals and over two thirds of the companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

Mark supervises and lectures to MBA, Master’s and Doctoral thesis students in the area of Leadership, Strategy, HR, Reward, Compensation and Performance. He is also an author of several books (some prescribed by universities) and has published or presented 65 academic articles and over 450 popular papers. He is often sought by the media to appear on television, radio, and in the press for expert views as he was a commissioner in the Presidency.

He has been visiting Singapore and Asia over the past 10 years to speak at conferences, and to facilitate several courses and Masterclasses. He is also a board and faculty member for WorldatWork USA, and is certified as a Global Reward Professional (GRP) and Certified Compensation Professional (CCP).

Catch his LinkedIn profile here!

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