Brexit: The bigger picture—Embracing agility in a volatile world

Brexit-related uncertainty brings additional pressures for UK firms and heightens their need to stay flexible–a fact underscored in interviews we conducted with executives at about 50 firms across the United Kingdom. As previous articles in this series highlight, the Brexit process has created additional uncertainty in the talent approaches, supply chains, and export strategies of UK companies.1Brexit: The bigger picture—Rethinking talent for the long term,” McKinsey & Company, November 2019; “Brexit: The bigger picture—Rethinking supply chains in a time of uncertainty,” McKinsey & Company, May 2019; “Brexit: The bigger picture—Revitalizing UK exports in the new world of trade,” McKinsey & Company, March 2019.

In this challenging context, pioneering firms are embarking on bold transformations to build agility into their organizations—and thus create competitive advantage in a volatile world. They are moving away from traditional organizational models based on static, siloed hierarchies to an agile operating model. In this new paradigm, companies define a powerful common purpose and put in place enabling technology that allows networks of teams to innovate rapidly and co-create new value. The objective is simple: to deliver better outcomes to customers at a faster pace and at lower cost.

These agile teams are already creating significantly greater financial returns than traditional business units, along with much higher customer engagement and employee satisfaction.2The five trademarks of agile organizations,” McKinsey & Company, January 2018. That said, agile operating models are still in their early days, and most companies have only begun to experiment with them–if at all. If UK firms are to unlock the full promise of agility, they will need to take several bold steps. These include fostering shared purpose to seize new value creation opportunities, ramping up the speed of innovation and learning, and investing in next-generation technology.

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