January 18, 2022


News for Agilists

Delivering on our International Ambition – But are UK Businesses Agile Enough to Compete in the Global Marketplace

According to the British Government, Brexit provides an opportunity for the United Kingdom to be more competitive in the Global Marketplace – but on what has this been based?  

Our research across the Global Marketplace has highlighted that the most successful businesses have adopted a concept of ‘Leadership Throughout’; a concept that allows people within the organisation, who have an innovative idea, to take the lead (irrespective of their position in the team). When you think about it, it makes perfect sense as the idea has been generated by them – they know how it was conceived and what they had in mind. It also helps to ensure that the business has the agility to take advantage of opportunities with speed and scale and thus be more competitive. The innovation often comes about because the employer has encouraged employees to look for potential changes in the external environment – particularly at potential changes to customer needs and expectations. This is something that we are not seeing when we look at the majority of UK based businesses. 

In 2009 I was invited to attend a debate, in the Houses of Parliament, on the concept of a ‘Better Managed Britain’. This debate looked at the quality of leadership and management across both the private and public sectors. Speaking to other senior managers that had been invited to the event, it became obvious that many people had been promoted, or knew of people that had been promoted, into management positions based on their technical skills with little thought being given to providing them with the training and mentoring required for the effective management of people. Our recent research shows that not much has changed.  

This has been further hindered by the insistence, of some employers, in the continuance of remote working which, in essence, creates individual silos that can stifle creativity. We have already highlighted the problems associated with the management of implicit learning and offered a solution to this in our article ‘Remote Working – Management of Tacit (Implicit) Knowledge and Learning’ but this does not provide a solution to how the constant collaboration and communication, required when undertaking complex projects, can be managed remotely. Perhaps this is why software companies based in the USA are insisting that their staff return to their ‘normal’ place of work. I think that how this is managed will be very much dependant upon the nature of the business. 

If UK based companies are to be in a position to compete in the Global Marketplace, then business leaders will need to take a look at the Structure of their organisations, paying particular attention to the Value Chain and the interactions and lines of communication required to support it. They will also need to ensure that they are leveraging the ‘right’ strategies, capabilities and culture required to encourage the innovation and creativity needed to support business growth – paying particular attention to the way in which their people are developed. If there is to be ‘Leadership Throughout’ then the provision of leadership and management training, with associated mentoring, will be paramount to supporting organisational agility through good people management at all levels. However, business leaders cannot put this on a ‘back burner’. 

Businesses outside of the EU and UK do not have to contend with skills shortages to the same extent. Nor do they have the distractions brought about by Brexit. This is what our contact in Dubai is telling us: ‘We are slightly ahead of the recovery curve here in the Gulf and we are riding the early (but buoyant) stages of the “revenge spend” wave.  Like you, we used the pandemic downtime to ask fundamental questions of our business and find bigger, better, and more innovative ways to serve our clients’. Despite the COVID Pandemic businesses in South Asia have also been moving forward. 

The World Bank has highlighted that ‘the role of services in the region’s economy has been increasing amid rapid technological change and the accelerated structural transformation of global economic activity in response to the pandemic.  The adoption of digital technologies makes services more tradable, enables services to increase productivity of other sectors—including manufacturing–and creates new markets.  Some South Asian countries are increasingly providing business and professional services that add value to manufacturing and play a key role in global value chains’.

If British businesses want to take advantage of opportunities in the Global Marketplace, then this is the right time to be looking to make the necessary changes required to provide the agility needed to be competitive. This is particularly important in ensuring that they can react to change in the external environment with the speed and scale required to sustain business growth.  

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