Preparing Agile-Adaptive Leaders of the Future

Posted February 8, 2024 | Leadership |
Preparing AgileAdaptive Leaders of the Future

Agile-adaptive leadership is not a destination; it’s a journey. It’s not that one style of leadership is wrong and another right, it’s about finding a style that fits the times. A quick perusal of the last half-century reminds us of technology advances, such as moving from individual transistors the size of a pencil eraser to integrated-circuit chips with 5 billion transistors. As work progressed from the Industrial Age to the knowledge and innovation ages, management models had to evolve. We cannot predict the next 10 to 20 years, but we can prepare for it by understanding that:

  • Turbulence will continue to increase. The forces of pandemic, climate change, geopolitical stress, economic and social disruption, and technologies like AI and quantum computing are too great to ever slow down the change clock.

  • Companies like Amazon, Apple, and Alphabet have replaced General Electric, General Motors, and IBM in the top 10 US companies listing.

  • The Agile community (software, products) has led the way for the last 20+ years in IT transformations to adapt to turbulence.

  • Make no mistake, the cultural transformation to an agile-adaptive culture is daunting, not completely unlike ancient mariners who feared sailing off the edge of the world. But maintaining the status quo will result in status over.

  • Just as COVID-19 sometimes rewarded luck as much as adaptability (think hospitality industry versus online shopping), building an agile-adaptive culture won’t solve all future headaches, but it will encourage the innovation needed to solve them.

Some research studies report that 75% (the number varies a lot) of digital transformation initiatives fail. However, that large a failure rate could doom the world economy. We need strong businesses that produce customer value, reward employees and other stakeholders, and engage in making the world a better place.

Leaders who demonstrate agility may be the cornerstone of our future — be it for a team, a company, or a nonprofit organization. However, major corporate transformations suffer from such significant external and internal obstacles that even the best agile-adaptive leaders often feel they are running in quicksand. Repeating the challenge to the agility community, our purpose is: to prepare enterprises for our turbulent future.

[For more on agile-adaptive leadership, see: “Agile-Adaptive Voices from the C-Suite: Ginni Rometty, Former IBM CEO.”]

About The Author
Jim Highsmith
Jim Highsmith is a Cutter Fellow Emeritus. He was the founding Director of Cutter’s Agile Product & Project Management practice and received the 2005 Stevens Award in recognition of his work in adaptive software development and Agile processes. Mr. Highsmith has 30-plus years’ experience as an IT manager, product manager, project manager, consultant, and software developer. He has consulted with IT and product development organizations and… Read More