Indian organisations are frontrunners in agile transformation maturity

28 September 2021 3 min. read

Companies have had to be agile to survive in the face of the existential shocks, volatility and uncertainty wrought by Covid-19. According to a new study, India’s businesses are among the frontrunners when it comes to agile implementation – putting them in a strong position to take advantage of a future economic recovery.

A worldwide analysis of more than 2,000 companies from global strategic consultancy McKinsey & Company has found that compared to the rest of the world, India ranks agility as a higher business priority. Three-quarters of Indian businesses said it was one of their top three business priorities, 10% more than the rest of the world.

When asked what drove this emphasis, India’s respondents said top team alignment and an amplified focus on ‘things that matter’ was something they wanted deeply embedded across their organisation to drive value at speed.

The agile organization

While mountains of evidence notes that prioritising agility is easier said than done, McKinsey also found that India’s companies were more likely to walk the talk than other markets. Almost half of India’s respondents have started or completed an agile transformation in some part of the business or even company-wide.

Meanwhile, when asked how their agile transformations went, 36% said they were highly successful, higher than the number of successful transformations globally – and second highest of all regions analysed by McKinsey.

Explaining the factors behind this success, Aarti Subramanian, a Senior Expert at McKinsey & Company in India, told HRWorld that there were three key aspects of India’s agile transformations. First, in Indian companies with successful transformations, executive teams spend at least one day per week driving the agility agenda.

Secondly, agility was intentionally used to drive value, with bold and deliberate ideas picked up and executed in a coordinated, concerted, and consistent effort. Finally, a regular cadence of the teams with direct involvement from the top team helps move the needle on impact exponentially.

“One successful organisation did this through coffee chats by the leaders each week where they shared success stories and celebrated those who exhibited these new behaviours,” she added.

The five trademarks of agile organizations

Agile in the outbreak

While agility had been rising on the agenda for some time, the pandemic also acted as a catalyst for further transformations in India. Decisions and product delivery that used to take months in large organisations has now shifted to take just days, with fewer people involved – something that has been a major help amid lockdown disruption.

Pointing to one example of this, Subramanian noted that one of India's largest conglomerates was tasked to deliver quarantine chambers for a large hospital in a southern Indian state. Pandemic-related disruptions meant that an impossible amount of work had to be accomplished in just a few days, all with dozens of new restrictions every day – so to manage the project, the organisation marshalled teams from across its subsidiaries as well as from other partners, to meet its deadline in an agile fashion.

“It finalised the chamber's design in just two days and extended its capacity by seven times to deliver the 540-bed hospital in two months – all during a time of high disruptions and uncertainties.”

However, while many companies have secured short-term shifts to agile to keep afloat, Subramanian asserted that more needs to be done to make these changes sustainable in the long-term. “Driving a concrete shift in behaviour and mindset is needed, which will require a change at multiple levels of a business.”

Meanwhile, HR leaders will need to communicate actively about the behaviour shifts expected.At the same time, reinforcement through incentives and leadership by example could help cement this.