Heraclitus once said: « There is nothing permanent, except change ». “If you have been in business for the past ten to twenty years, you will know one thing for sure: Change is everywhere and comes in all different shapes: from a full to a flat screen TV, to the new contactless VISA card, and new regulations on tax credits. Information travels so fast, the market changes so quickly, that decisions have to be made swiftly. On top of this constant change, however, the level of social and environmental concerns is also rising of. Indeed, if we had to determine which direction the market is currently moving, it would be sustainable effectiveness and social security.
Therefore, from private to corporate, social to the financial, change is a necessary measure to implement if you want to thrive and survive in a market where competition is higher than ever. However, if adapting your organization to the world’s demands is one thing, knowing how to do so and how to sustain that adaptability is another. So what is the secret, you ask? Well, the answer is simple: agility.
What is agility?
Agility, as defined by Christopher Worley, is the ability to make timely, effective and sustained change when and where it provides a performance advantage for the organization. Simply said, agility is the structure and knowledge that is required to make changes when necessary. In an organization like Unilever, agility is at the center of corporate politics. Unilever changed its organization, including everything from production chain to performance management. It became more environmentallyfriendly and not only adapted to the present, but also became forward-thinking, imagining future would hold. Not only did this help the company thrive financially, but Unilever also saw very social and environmental results.
Now, you might say that creating an environmental focus within your organization is not being agile. However, let’s have another look, We clearly see that all organizations are now faced with the ultimate Triple Bottom Line of People, Planet and Profit. If even one of these three is not met, there is little chance for your organization to survive further changes the market, To remedy this, we must consider sustainable effectiveness, which is the ability to render research for social and environmental progress for your company. If you understand what sustainable effectiveness is, you will immediately see how it goes hand in hand with agility.
6 Tips for successfully implementing agility
Now, talking about using agility as a main company strategy is all well and good, but the real question is: how can you successfully implement it? Consider these 6 tips:
- Be yourself, not Google. Very often, companies have tried to implement change by copying other companies’ strategies, like Google’s. But the reality is that doing so is a waste of time and money. While understanding why they are successful is crucial to understanding the market, Google is an entirely different company than yours. It has its own history, values and industry. Agility has to be tailored to your organization and the way it works.
- Stay in touch with your company culture. As CrossKnowledge faculty member Christopher Worley, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. Why? Because if you only capitalize on strategy, you will find yourself dismissing one very important element of your company: the people. Let’s take the example of Starbucks. Here is a company whose policy has always been concentrated around on the experience it can offer. They Starbucks not only wanted to nurture the relationship between the barista and the client, but also between the client and the company brand. In order to do this, the Seattle-based company created a real Starbucks experience with not only a good cup of coffee, but also music, a free access to the Internet, a pleasant indoor temperature, and nice, comfortable chairs.
- Plan ahead. Of course the first criterion for agility is thinking ahead. And by thinking ahead, I mean organizing company meetings centered entirely around imagining future situations in which problems could happen and what the best response to those problems would be. As a result you will not only prepare your management for a given situation, you will also lay out strategic plans that are shared by the whole company. In turn this would reduce response time when a similar problem occurred.
- Build a strategic board The decisions your company makes are reflected by its board. If you want the main executive decisions your company makes to not merely be financially centered butalso toentail social and environmental measures, then you need to put people on the board who are agree with these ideas – and who deeply understand them. Take the example of the organization Pantagonia. Here is an organization is famous for being an agile company and whose main focus in the last few years has been sustainable effectiveness. What many people don’t know, however, is that the organization’s board is one of the most varied in the industry, featuring not only financial experts, but also NGOs, social workers and environmentalists. As a result, Patagonia’s decisions always fit within three central themes: social, financial and environmental concerns.
- Maximize your surface area. What is the surface area, you ask? It is amount of surface space you have in contact with your client. In order to concentrate on making the best product possible, many organizations have their surface area, that is, diminished the size of their marketing and public relations units. By doing so, they have cut themselves off from the outside world. n the age of constant communication, this is a crucial mistake. In fact, many would recommend quite the contrary: listen to your clients and the market. They will tell you what you need to change.
- Forget about job descriptions. How can you expect your company to be flexible if your people are not? If you assign a person to a department instead of a special position, you will find that they will quickly be more efficient and motivated. They will take on different types of projects, bring more initiatives forward and overall help your company overall move forward towards it future.
Of course, agile companies are not perfect – as no company is. However, they demonstrate the ability to learn from their mistakes and to get back on track quickly which makes them all the more effective. Inevitably change will come. There is no one way to know exactly how to prepare for the specifics of it. Thus the only thing you can do is get ready to have your company rocked and twisted. And for that, you will need agility.