Perspectives from an Agile CEO
By Pam Ashby | 18 October 2018
“Business agility is a philosophy, not a fad,” confirms John Williams, the new CEO of the Agile Business Consortium. “It’s a generic competence that’s about every aspect of the way an organisation works – and that will transform the way the world feels, for business and for people.”
I was talking to John on the second day of the Agile Business Conference. It was an amazing time to catch up with him to find out how he felt about his new role, the Consortium itself and the Conference that was busy exploring the creation of Generation Agile.
Surprising and delightful
John is a business strategist. He has an impressive background of commercial success and leadership, and yet, it’s not facts but emotions he draws attention to: “The variety of people here at the conference, and the span of the speakers is both surprising and delightful,” he tells me. “Surprising because I feel there’s still only a light understanding about what business agility actually is – and delightful because they’re here with us and engaging with the subject and the challenges of ‘Creating Generation Agile’.
Born of passion and enthusiasm
As a not-for-profit membership organisation, the Consortium inspires a particular atmosphere:
“I’ve walked into this agile community over the course of the last few days and one of the things that strikes me about it immediately is its positivity – and that’s born of a passion and enthusiasm for agile and business agility that actually isn’t inherent in almost any of the other business concepts I can think of.
“It’s clear that this is a community, a family, not just of agile practitioners, but including people who think around agile processes and concepts. There’s a panoply of people and organisations associated with the application of agile principles and the Consortium has a critical role in ensuring that the concept of business agility doesn’t stand still. It would be anathema for agile itself not to evolve. The Consortium has a role to play in thought leadership, in maintaining the momentum behind the development of agile thinking and agile concepts, so that we continue to meet the ever-changing context of business as we go into the future. We need to be agile in our thinking and to continue to be agile in the way that we develop that future thinking.”
John highlights that the role of the Consortium is to lead on business agility, as this cannot be left only to busy practitioners who are fully occupied applying agile in their day-to-day work.
Motivation, support and reward
“My own view of leadership,” he offers, “Is that it comprises three things; motivation, support and reward. The role of the Consortium is to continue to motivate people, to engage with agile concepts and to deliver agile futures for organisations. To support them in doing that with collateral, with thought leadership, and with the connections they’ll need to be successful. To reward them by ensuring we continue to celebrate the progress that’s been made by agile practitioners and agile thinkers as we go into the future.”
His vision is that the Consortium provides an objective voice to function as
the foundation of the growth of agile consciousness within the business world.
John is emphatic that business agility is not about IT, or about projects, but about attaining a state where organisations can “respond flexibly and immediately to the challenges of the world” and develop “the ability to predict some of the challenges that will come along.”
The Agile Business Conference reflected a very broad application of business agility and involved people from every element of an organisation’s processes – strategy, marketing, operations, people management, and more. “This is both surprising and delightful,” he reiterates, “It’s surprising to see that breadth of different engagement here and it’s delightful because this community already knows that business agility applies everywhere in an organisation.
"Now we need to work together to get that into the minds of the rest of the business world.”
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