Building agile organisations
Turbulence is here and is here to stay. Any attempt to ignore it will be futile. The way forward is to embrace the opportunities in turbulent environments and build an agile organisation.
Turbulence has always played a leading role throughout socio-economic history. There has never been a dull moment. The sources of this turbulence have changed over time, but have always arisen from our political, economic, socio-cultural, technological or legal environments.
Today, many will argue that we experience a significant acceleration in rate of change, growing exponentially, which subsequently has increased the influence on organisations. Every generation expresses that we are moving towards some end-state, but that is utopia. Turbulence indicates a disturbance in our environment, reducing predictability and heightening future uncertainty.
The challenge at hand is that we organise our commercial activities on the assumption of continuing stability and the creation of predictable environments that we can control.
Unfortunately, we business leaders are not especially fond of turbulence.
From an organisational context, we experience this turbulence as a major threat to the discipline of traditional management. We therefore need to evaluate which of our management principles that are not appropriate and test the assumptions that these ideas are based on.
While the impact of turbulence has accelerated exponentially since the industrial revolution, the discipline of management has stood virtually still in comparison. After a fast start at the beginning of the 20th century, the pace of innovation gradually decelerated and in recent years slowed to a crawl.
The current discipline of traditional management gets free-spirited human beings to conform to processes, standards and rules, but doing so kills off large quantities of human initiative and imagination. It brings discipline to operations, but destroys organisational adaptability.
We experience a lot of business leaders who are excellent at “running the business”, however, they are significantly more challenged when turbulence causes the focus to shift to “changing the business”. The ability to bring this external “chaos” into the traditional line organisationand view it as something positive is a big challenge for most business leaders.
From a leadership perspective, we need to cultivate our ability to be opportunity-seeking and offensive even though we will experience surprises constantly.
We need to accept that we make bold decisions and change things, only to change them again shortly after.
We must communicate strongly internally and externally, only to experience that it turned out differently.
Organisational agility is the capacity to identify and capture emerging opportunities more efficiently than rivals.
Being agile is not about how an organisation should respond to a once-off crisis or rebuild after a downturn, it is concerned with an organisation’s ability to navigate through continual turbulence. To be truly agile, an organisation must be able to dramatically reduce the time it takes to go from downturn to upturn.
The first step is to identify your organisation’s current agility capacity and potential as well as map out specific focus areas.
Quite often, the best improvement is not the most complex, but a few well-chosen areas with symbolic effect that institutionalises a real change in the way the organisation thinks and act.
Being agile is not about how an organisation should respond to a once-off crisis or rebuild after a downturn, it is concerned with an organisation’s ability to navigate through continual turbulence. To be truly agile, an organisation must be able to dramatically reduce the time it takes to go from downturn to upturn
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