We have all at some point heard the phrase "the only constant in life, is change". Fact is, in business things are always changing. With organisations operating in a fast paced, ever-changing world, they have no choice but to find ways and means to rapidly adapt and respond to change in order to remain competitive and relevant. The current climate demands of organisations to quickly react to disruptions, new technologies, competition and to shifts in the market conditions. An organisation's ability to react and quickly adapt to these changes is in its agility.
What is organisational agility?
Organisational agility can simply be defined as an organisation's ability to respond and adapt to change. It is also defined as the power to move quickly and easily. Change often comes in many ways, be it an introduction of new technologies, a change in an organisation's strategy, changes brought on by market demands, changes resulting from political, social and environmental factors. Change is inevitable, and how it is responded to can lead to the success or demise of an organisation.
A good example of an organisation that has been successful in adapting and responding to market changes is Amazon. Amazon's agility has certainly contributed to it being the world's largest online retailer. This success can be attributed to the ability to quickly respond to market demands, specifically through understanding and responding to their customers' needs. Amazon's strategy is centred around its customers, and with customers constantly evolving with new demands, Amazon had to be agile, adapt and respond quickly to the evolving needs of their customers.
On the flip side, organisations like Blackberry struggled to embrace agility and as a result lost market dominance. In 2016, Blackberry was reported to have lost over 50 million users, declining from 85 million users in 2013 to 23 million users in 2016. This loss in market share is attributed to failure to respond to new market demands, such as touch screen smart phones and competitors who quickly responded to the market demands (such as Apple and Samsung). Blackberry had all the technology, the market and the capital to respond to the consumer needs, but instead chose to remain rigid instead of embracing agility, and shifting focus to enable them to serve the emerging consumer market.
The examples cited above are a clear indication that embracing agility is critical to the success of any organisation. Embracing agility is not an easy task, but it is not impossible. It takes a clear vision and strategy to know where agility is needed and how it should be effected. How does an organisation go about embracing agility?
1. Embrace Disruption
There is always disruption in the world of business, whichever way it manifests. The COVID-19 pandemic is one example of such a disruption, which required organisations to rapidly respond with alternative working models. In enabling your organisation to embrace disruption, the narrative needs to change. Disruption needs to be viewed and embraced as a positive step towards change.
2. Embrace Innovation & Exploration
Encourage and drive a culture of innovation and exploration. Empower your employees to explore new ideas, but also empower them to take decisions on those ideas. In doing so, you empower them to own their ideas and bring them to life, whilst gaining the confidence to fail fast, learn fast and grow fast.
3. Identify areas that must be agile
Not all processes, or tasks need to adapt to agility. As an organisation, you have trusted and proven areas that form the backbone of your organisation. These areas may not need to change. However, is embracing agility, a thorough assessment of the areas of your organisation that needs agility is important.
4. Measure your organisational agility
Organisations often embrace agility in an effort to respond quickly to changing markets, technologies and competitors. But how often do they measure their organisational agility? In measuring your organisation's agility, it is important to understand the industry within which you operate, understand where the industry is, and where it is going. It is also important to define the right metrics to measure. In defining these, you need to ask yourself what embracing agility means for your organisation and the vision it has set.
"Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature's inexorable imperative.” - HG Wells. This quote clearly speaks to the fact that the world is constantly changing, requiring those who do not wish to be left behind to change along with it. Is your organisation well suited to change or are you slowly being left behind?
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