Directional strategy enables a business to cope with radical uncertainty. Agile practices enable a business to innovate at speed. But the core of any business seeking to reap the benefits of agility at scale is an agile operating model.
The approach we have adopted to create an agile operating model is leading through intent. For nearly two decades, we have been building up experience in embedding the principles of leading through intent in businesses large and small across a wide range of sectors.
In business, perfection is a chimera and seeking it can be positively dangerous. The purpose of strategy is not to guarantee success, but to shift the odds in your favour. So we are not naïve or arrogant enough to claim that leading through intent solves everybody’s problems under all circumstances. But in all the cases we have worked on the effects have been overwhelmingly positive.
The practical evidence suggests that introducing leading through intent raises performance by some 5-10%, and that as it becomes established as the default operating model and people hone the skills required to make it work, that rate of improvement can be sustained over time and creates a performance gap that competitors find it hard to close.
The specific value varies from case to case.
Some historically very devolved companies benefit from the increase in focus and efficiency resulting from high alignment.
Others which have historically been tightly controlled from the centre benefit from the increased flexibility and responsiveness resulting from high autonomy.
But there is a consistent pattern of benefits across almost all cases which tend to accumulate over time: