Bend don’t break: why flexibility is a sign of strength in modern businesses


“Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape”

There’s a quote flying around the internet attributed to Michael Mcgriffy MD. No one seems to have really identified much about the man behind the words, but his pithy saying about flexibility seems to sum up the corporate zeitgeist.

The business buzzword over the past 18 months has been ‘agile’. Agility is seen as a sign of a truly modern business. It signifies a modern attitude. A bend-don’t-break response to change that’s no doubt the long term reaction to the recession and other turbulent political and economic fluctuations. It also responds to the work/life demands of both Millennials and those heading into their ‘third careers’.

What defines an agile business?

An agile business is one that’s able to adapt quickly to demands, clients and circumstances. Done the right way an agile business is more cost effective and cost efficient than the traditional model. There are fewer overheads. The company can respond quickly to both an influx of work or a downturn in the economy. It has strength because of its flexibility.

One of the central pillars of agility has been adapting to new ways of structuring a company. Depending on the size of an organisation it may mean opting for shared office spaces instead of the large, showcase variety. It may mean more people working from home. It may mean scaling down the core, full time team and utilising interim talent as and when work demands it.

Talent on demand

This final point is an important one. Not just for us, with it being our business, but because it has a myriad of other benefits. Historically, interim talent has been used in exactly the way one might expect.  To fill a gap. Someone’s left a job and you haven’t found someone new. Someone’s joining for a particular project, and so forth. Those functions are still necessary and applicable.

However, the purpose of interim talent has developed beyond that. On the one hand, it has progressed into senior leadership in a way it never has before. Boards and senior management need not only be made up of fixed figures on large salaries. These are roles that can be filled on an interim basis by people who also work with other organisations. Their breadth of industry knowledge gives them a greater outside perspective on a company to better advise and understand the challenges it faces. It means that they can also be brought in, not simply to fill a gap, but for a targeted function suited to their specific expertise.  That might be the launch of a project or troubleshooting.

Secondly, interim talent means having access to all the skills that you need to deliver on projects and services at any given moment, but without relying on one particular individual. If your company hinges on the use of graphic design, the right interim service will allow you access to graphic design at all times. However, if one person is off sick or unable to meet the requirements, another is always there.  You tap into the skill, not necessarily the individual.

Commitment and an ecosystem of knowledge

For many companies, that approach moves organically into the carefully considered use of ‘permanent temporaries’. The benefit is a committed working relationship with flexibility for the individual, more cost effectiveness for the company, and the ecosystem of skills and knowledge that  interim talent brings from other work.

Modern businesses have redefined what it is to be a strong organisation. Where in the past it meant big offices and bigger teams, today it is about streamlining and adaptability. Those of us who do our yoga know that if you only focus on brute strength, at some point something’s going to snap. If you focus on improving your flexibility, you’re more likely to be able to bend than break.