Earlier in my series on the traits that agile, high-performance insurers need their leaders to display in the face of disruption, I focused on maintaining vision and flexibly deploying executives and managers at every level. This time, I discuss effective leaders’ ability to drive results.
As detailed in the Accenture report, Leadership Imperatives for an Agile Workforce, top-performing companies have leaders who establish a culture of making big decisions quickly and then implementing them with the needed scale, buy-in and accountability.
Our business agility research shows that 53 percent of top performers—those with sales increases exceeding 10 percent during the past fiscal year—say the ability to quickly make critical decisions is a key to managing in an agile manner. But just 41 percent of their lower-performing peers—those with dwindling sales—responded likewise. Additionally, being focused on getting the big decisions right is important to 58 percent of top performers but to only 41 percent of low performers.
We found a large chasm, however, between companies’ aspirations and their performance. Overall, 48 percent of the companies we contacted during our research stated that making quick decisions and getting the big ones right are keys to organizational performance. Yet only one-third ranked their own company as among the best in the industry in that regard.
Beyond quickly making decisions lies the leadership work to execute them successfully. Top performers understand this at a deep level: 45 percent rate themselves among the best in their industry in having a sufficiently flexible operating model that can respond to rapidly changing demands. Only 18 percent of low performers made that claim. A flexible operating model depends in part on being able to move resources efficiently from one focus or set of initiatives to another in an emerging or critical situation. Thirty-nine percent of top-performing companies report they can, compared to just 17 percent of low performers.
Top performers also claim a higher proficiency at the performance management capabilities needed to marshal the energies and resources of a far-flung organization and keep them in sync to execute on strategy and on specific decisions. Forty-five percent rank themselves at the top of their industry, compared with 20 percent of low performers.
We also found that accountability for execution is one of the essential components of effective enterprise performance management that drives organizational agility. Strong leaders understand their role involves clearly stating their expectations and establishing roles and responsibilities. They also take action immediately when issues arise. And they reward results, not just activity.