3 Leadership Behaviors That Accelerate Agility

August 22, 2022

Contributor: Lori Perri

Executive leaders adopt three behaviors to preserve agility while guiding digital business transformation.

Gartner recommends that leaders focus on three default behaviors to foster organizational agility:

  • Speed up decision making.

  • Simplify work.

  • Eliminate unnecessary tasks.

“Accelerating digital business means working differently and faster, but people don’t change working habits on command,” says Gartner Distinguished VP Analyst Kristin Moyer. Executive leaders must frame the change for employees by defining new values or doubling down on existing ones, and then linking expected behaviors to them.” 

Three behaviors that accelerate digital business

No. 1: Speed up decision making

Organizations need a decision framework that defines when people should make decisions and when they should defer or slow decisions. Weigh the degree to which you must live with the consequences of a decision against whether you can change it. Unless decision-making processes change in the organization, agility in product delivery, governance and other areas will not improve.

Hacks to speed up decision making 

  • “No” isn’t allowed: Leaders must ask questions before simply saying “no.”

  • The buck stops here: Determine the one person who will make the decision and when.

  • Seek resistance first: Address concerns early so decisions can be made quickly.

No. 2: Simplify work

Leaders often assume that the more complicated the work is, the more value it creates. But that is often false. In many cases, simpler is better; however, it takes active work to keep things simple. Leaders can simplify work by looking at the tasks that must be done and figuring out the simplest and fastest way.

Hacks to simplify work

  • Limit time: Allow a 24-hour time limit to create a first draft or prototype.

  • Reverse-mentoring hour: Ask junior employees to show senior employees what can be done to simplify work.

  • Meme city: Turn employees into culture creators by giving an award to the top 3 “simplify work” memes.

No. 3: Eliminate unnecessary tasks

We often confuse output with outcomes and measure performance based on outputs. Focusing on outcomes makes us more valuable, while focusing on outputs decreases value by requiring unnecessary busy work. To make our organizations more agile, we must shift the emphasis to outcomes instead.

Hacks to reduce unnecessary tasks

  • Red light, green light: Discuss as a team what should stop, start and continue.

  • Kill ideas without a sponsor: Test commitment with real money, and if it’s not there, stop working on it immediately.

  • Hold weekly “break the rules” meeting: Allow the team to break the rules — scratch policies, cancel old procedures, empower people, provide budget to new ideas, connect people and so on.

In short: 

  • Accelerating digital business requires a deliberate process to ensure culture changes fit into employees’ daily lives.

  • Instill agility as a critical value whenever aiming to accelerate digital business.

  • Organizations that seek agility must also speed up decision making, simplify work and eliminate unnecessary tasks.

This article has been updated since its original publication in February 2021 to reflect new events, conditions and research.

Kristin Moyer is a Distinguished VP, Analyst in Gartner's CEO and Digital Business Leader practice.

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