We are heading into uncharted territory for many industries.  In the grips of a seismic shift driven by technology – creating challenges and opportunities in equal measure – we need to adapt to a more complex, dynamic, nuanced world. As practitioners in the world of risk management, compliance, assurance and a range of other governance disciplines we need to take stock and ask whether what we are doing, the way we are doing it and the outcomes we are trying to achieve are fit for purpose as we look forward. For many, this look in the mirror might not be a particularly pleasant experience!

Central to being successful in this brave new world is going to be the heightened need to balance the clamour for enhanced understanding of risks, deeper assurance, greater analysis and insight, and a need to have a sharper focus on stakeholder needs; with an ongoing tightening of belts, as the headwinds around cost blow even harder. At the heart of the response is a need for greater agility – in action and thinking.

For many, when we talk about being more agile our thoughts tend to switch to software development methodologies, the principles and practices of which have bled into a whole range of other approaches, tools and processes in areas as diverse as product development, marketing and, even, internal audit. As corporate governance professionals, we should be looking at how a more agile (the adjective not the noun!) approach to what we do and how we do it could help us do more with the same (or even less!). To do that we need to look at the entire ‘agile onion’ (see below) and determine how we address all the layers to deliver lasting improvements.

It would be relatively easy to adopt a range of new practices, tools and processes to help plan and deliver on your objectives – and many have done so in areas such compliance monitoring, scenario analysis in operational risk, change assurance and credit risk modelling, to name but a few. These can be implemented – often with limited impact – without effecting any structural or cultural change; however, if you genuinely want to drive change through more of what you do and to make it stick you have to put the effort into establishing clear principles, underlying values and, critically, fostering an agile mind-set. Whilst this is best done at an organisational level, you can make good progress at a programme, function or team level.

Dougie McAndrew, February 2019