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Boosting agility with a ‘Nimble Manifesto’ from the C-suite

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April 19, 2022
By Edmond Mellina

Photo: Getty Images

When the pandemic hit, businesses had no choice but to move at a faster pace.

Now that companies are returning to the office in a hybrid fashion, they are asking the following questions: How do we ensure we don’t revert to our old ways? And how do we bring to the next level the agility that COVID forced onto us?

Partnering with influencers

The first step is to sit down with internal influencers to get their frank opinion.

Start by interviewing each member of the top leadership team, as well as the most influential of their direct reports.


These must be confidential, one-on-one discussions – potentially conducted by a third party.

Also, run a series of focus-groups with representative leaders and employees from across the business. The key here is to ensure you engage with true influencers. These discussions provide a vivid picture of the current reality – more specifically:

  • Where the company is at when it comes to nimbleness.
  • How the leadership contributes to promoting and hindering agility.
  • What else is helping or in the way.

By involving influencers in such a fashion, you start fostering the partners-in-change and co-creation mindsets that are so critical for successful transformations.

Also, the stage is set for a positive domino effect down the road. As you continue working with these influential players, they should buy into the plans to raise agility. In turn, they will bring colleagues on board and lead the way.

Bigger picture, the discussions help decide how the corporate culture must evolve – to drive agility, but also given the evolving competitive landscape and strategic options.

Borrowing the very first page from the Agile Movement

Culture-shift must start at the top. As noted above, the conversations with influencers highlight how senior executives currently hinder agility. If the C-Suite doesn’t change its ways, the organization won’t become nimbler.

What is your next step then? Leverage the feedback and borrow the very first page from the Agile Movement in software development.

Agile started in February 2001, when 17 developers gathered in a ski resort somewhere in the mountains of Utah. Frustrated with the long time to bring software to market, they brainstormed ways to change the status quo.

What emerged was the Manifesto for Agile Software Development, which launched and powered the agility movement.

The structure of the document was a key reason for its huge impact. It had two parts:

  1. Mindsets – It started with four statements articulating the top mindset-shifts for agile software development. The sentences used a “we value this over that” format. For example: “We value working software over comprehensive documentation.”
  2. Principles – The second section listed key “Principles” to translate the agile mindsets into behaviours.

So, what do I mean by “borrow the very first page from the Agile Movement”? The C-Suite should develop a Nimble Manifesto for itself. The document clearly states how senior executives must lead differently to enable agility. Of course, it must be anchored to the feedback from influencers.

The following format, which we adapted from the original Agile document, works very well:

  • Mindsets – four to five statements capturing the top mindset-shifts that executives must embrace to bring agility to the next level. We use a “this-not-that” structure. For example: “Leading with trust – not Managing and directing” (“Leading with trust” is nimble; “Managing and directing” is not).
  • Behaviours – under each statement, two bullet points highlighting the Top-2 executive behaviours to demonstrate this specific mindset. Going back to the above example, one bullet point could be: “We empower teams because they can make better-informed and faster decision than us (the executives)”.

Bringing the C-Suite Nimble Manifesto to life

Once the Manifesto is drafted, run it through the same influencers – which also demonstrates you have heard them loud and clear.

After that, the senior leadership must finalize the document and commit to it.

It is now time to publish the C-Suite Nimble Manifesto, so that the entire organization is aware of senior management’s commitment. Remember, culture-shift must start at the top.

Of course, turning this commitment into new habits won’t happen overnight. Executives will revert to their old ways; they will fall into the old-habits trap.

So, make sure the C-Suite gives the entire organization a “License To Call It Out” when they do so. It sends the following message: “We are only human, but we are all in this together; hence, please help us so that we can better help you as executives”.

With that in place, the organization can continue working on raising agility and – bigger picture – executing the broader culture-shift necessary to thrive in the new normal.

Edmond Mellina, ORCHANGO’s president and co-founder, is internationally respected for his expertise in nimble change leadership and culture change. For the past 30 years, he has been executing strategic transformations, building agile capabilities, and coaching clients across sectors in Europe, North America and the Middle East. He is a former corporate transformation executive in drastically changing industries: CIO at Delta Hotels when Expedia disrupted the hotel business; and VP Corporate Development & General Manager USA for the technology business of Envoy Communication Group when design and marketing agencies started to become digital. Follow him on Twitter or LinkedIn. For more information, visit https://orchango.com//


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