Be Agile or Be Gone

Be Agile or Be Gone

If there’s anything in the business world today that is certain, it’s change like it or not. Organizations face disruption at every turn, whether it’s in the way a company interacts with its customers, attracts and retains talent, develops and markets new products, or a myriad of other areas.Agility - target
Corporate agility has become a goal that many organizations are racing toward—and what some even would consider to be non-negotiable in order for survival. With business environments changing more rapidly than ever before—from technology to regulation and everything in between—it is crucial for companies to be able to quickly adapt their strategies and operations in response to shifts in the marketplace. According to a recent McKinsey survey, the more a company views its environment as volatile, the more likely respondents are to report that their organization is pursuing an “agile transformation.”[1]
An article last fall in McKinsey Quarterlypointed to a commonality among companies that “get it right: they create adaptive, fast-moving organizations that can respond quickly and flexibly to new opportunities and challenges as they arrive,” thereby “moving intelligent decision making to the front lines.”[2] In two other articles McKinsey likens the paradigm shift to a move from “organizations as machines” to “organizations as living organisms,”[3] noting that an organization must be both dynamic and stable in order to be truly agile.[4]
But while agility is clearly top of mind, still relatively few companies have managed to achieve it to date. Some fall into the trap of endless reorganizations, and some just fall woefully behind. So what are the hallmarks of organizations that have been successful?
A Forbes articleby Maureen Metcalf, CEO of the Innovative Leadership Institute, identifies four key elements needed to build an agile organization:[5]

  1. Strategist leadership mindset:Leaders need to change their mindset to value flexibility and to be “intellectually versatile and reflective.”
  2. Nimble culture:Culture can either support or derail a transformation and must align with the organization you’re trying to create.
  3. Lean principles:Lean thinking is a systematic approach to increasing efficiency and effectiveness while reducing waste.
  4. Agile methods:Organizations must “build the capacity to proactively navigate the changes impacting them.”[6]

Finally, McKinsey points to the importance of applying agile techniques to the planning and budgeting process as well, which is where strategy translates into decisions about people and resources. The firm argues that by focusing on a small set of strategic priorities; ensuring teams have clear, specific goals; accelerating planning cycles so resources get reallocated more frequently; and enabling and empowering teams instead of directing them, the benefits of agility will more likely be fully realized across the entire organization.[7]
In short, if businesses do not focus on adapting to the market and environment around them, they will most certainly struggle if not lose the battle entirely to remain competitive and relevant.  Those that do chose to remain agile and open to shifting strategies in order to meet the needs and demands of the business will clearly have an advantage.  Where are you and your company heading?  Let’s start a conversation. 


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