What Is Organizational Agility?
Times change. There’s no better or worse example of an unexpected change than the COVID-19 pandemic. From remote working, setting…
June 4, 2021 | 7 mins read
Times change. There’s no better or worse example of an unexpected change than the COVID-19 pandemic. From remote working, setting up home offices and COVID-relief funds to providing compassionate leave and care packages, organizations have left no stone unturned when it comes to keeping pace with a changing landscape.
According to a McKinsey report, industries such as education, food and beverage and healthcare have been turned on their axis. Today, there’s a surge in online education and digital classrooms as people move to their hometowns and operate from home. The restaurant business especially has suffered greatly. Many independent vendors have now started selling packaged Indian thalis, picnics and gourmet wine and cheese sets to be enjoyed at home or in a local park.
Life took a 180-turn and organizations came through with innovative ideas and crisis control measures. The ability to adapt quickly to change is known as organizational agility. With high-performing leaders at the helm, every organization has the ability to make the right decisions at the right time.
Read on to discover how organizational agility even in the most difficult time can help your organization stay ahead of its game with agility.
Wouter Aghina, leader of organization design at McKinsey, explains the meaning of organizational agility as the opposite of being fragile. Where the latter means to break easily, like crystal glass, the former means to get stronger in the presence of stress or pressure. He says, “agility is when you thrive on change and get stronger and it becomes a source of real competitive advantage.”
It comes as no surprise then that the meaning of organizational agility is to become stronger, overcome setbacks and sustain competition with strategies that account for rapid change.
Organizational agility allows you to lead your organization through the stormiest time. Even if it’s a global pandemic, how do you make sure your organization stays afloat? Let’s find out.
The way you structure your organization, run your operations and account for change should be top-of-mind from the beginning. Alternatively, you can do routine shake-ups to make sure your organization stays on track regardless of the general business environment. Finding alternative methods to conduct your business, setting up teams that work on strategizing for unexpected challenges and leaving room for error are some ways to create air-tight plans. It may not always go accordingly, but with organizational agility, you can move things around and not let change disrupt your business.
Believing that it’ll be smooth sailing once your business takes off may not work in your favor. An important aspect of organizational agility is to first acknowledge and accept that the way you conduct your business may go through some changes. For instance, many restaurants have now started setting up tables outdoors in the light of the pandemic. Preparing for change and acknowledging its presence will help you take your organization to newer and greater heights. It shows that you’re ready to move forward.
Investing in your employees’ development and growth will help your cause. Most of all, the leaders and senior executives in your organization need to take the wheel when the going gets tough. Informed decisions, innovative ideas and effective leadership can take you from point a to b without disruption. Dealing with challenges, managing teams and relying on critical thinking are some of the traits of good leadership. Thus, employee learning and development are critical for organizational agility.
Sometimes, you have to make decisions you never thought possible. Whether it’s setting up an entirely new business arm, shifting strategies or moving operations. Leaders need to pick up the slack and lead their teams to success. Thinking big picture and creating effective strategies not just for today but for the future are some ways to sustain change. You have to stay on top of trends and assess early on what the future might look like. For this, there may be times when your organization needs to move in a new, unexpected direction.
Organizational agility is all about being flexible, making quick decisions and leaving room for course correction. Business plans should be dynamic and adaptable to address a changing business landscape. Many organizations set up task forces or temporary teams to handle certain unexpected issues or setbacks. These teams are quick at making informed decisions, usually bringing together a group of experts.
Preparing for change and not buckling under pressure can help drive your organization. Decision-making needs to be streamlined, effective and spontaneous. Operation models must be flexible and adaptable, based on employee expertise, business goals and socio-economic conditions. Motivate your employees to take charge, be proactive and accountable for their actions to stay on top of things.
Many organizations across industries have changed the way they do business. These changes are based on years of trend analyses and studying the general public sentiment toward consumer goods. Appealing to the masses isn’t easy in a competitive environment.
Here are some examples of organizational agility and how it has altered the business landscape:
In a bid to change the way their customers see their products, Apple designed an ad campaign targeted at the “misfits, the ones who see differently and the round pegs in the square holes” to reimagine their brand. The “Think different” slogan was launched in 1997 and remains one of the most iconic disruptions in the way brands perceive advertising.
Today, brands focus on different aspects of consumer awareness that move beyond putting the spotlight on their product. In most cases, the product is woven into the storyline as part of the plot instead of being the protagonist.
Marketing today is consumer-first. Brands first conduct social media surveys and polls to take stock of what their customer base needs. This is the first step in developing a sound marketing strategy. Earlier, brands rolled out marketing campaigns based on what their product could add to their customers’ lives.
Nothing speaks agility more than digital transformation across industries. Be it education, auto, banking, health or insurance, every industry has seen a transformation in the digital sphere. Moving operations online, building a cashless economy and expanding networks across borders has become a way of life. Teachers are taking classes on Zoom, courtrooms have moved online and business dealings are just as effective over email as they were in person. Many organizations must have found this shift challenging in the beginning, but slowly and steadily many are equipping their teams to accommodate these changes.
If you want your organization to keep moving ahead without looking back, unless it’s to study how far you’ve come, you have to adopt organizational agility. Not only does it act as an airbag in a crisis but also lets you think ahead as a decision-maker.
Organizational agility is one of the key elements of a modern organization. Whether you’re a start-up or an established brand, you have to have the insight to set up operations at a moment’s notice, think of the present and the future and execute decisions in a timely manner. Collaboration, cooperation and teamwork go a long way in building this vision together with the people who make up your organization.
There are different types of organizational agility that target business operations, strategic management and how you manage your organization’s resources. How you can make your business agile and adaptable is by staying a step ahead of your competition.
Some ways to do that is by:
Studying market trends and making informed decisions
Relying on your employees and giving them the autonomy to take action
Upskilling and reskilling leadership so they can jump into action when needed
Preparing to change lanes if the situation calls for it
Opening doors to new possibilities by attending events and conferences that help you network with other industry leaders
Top-of-mind organizational agility is the way forward in the context of establishing a brand, sustaining competition and contributing toward the growth of your employees. After all, they’re the ones who’ll lead the organization to success.
Equipping your senior leadership with the right skill set is an assured way to build organizational agility. Harappa’s High Performing Leaders Program offers a curated learning solution for senior professionals in your organization who are excited about the future. Elements such as skills benchmarking help us curate a targeted learning environment for your employees to make sure they have an enriching experience.
Bringing together robust academic frameworks such as Growth vs. Fixed Mindset, Trust Equation and Competing Values Framework and Thrive Skills such as Commercial Acumen, Effective Communication Skills and Smart Decision-Making, our program is geared toward driving high performance in your workplace. Reach out to us to learn more about how you can achieve transformative outcomes today!
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