Building Agility Across an Organization

Laura Goodrich Posted by Laura Goodrich.

Laura is cofounder of On Impact, an integrated content company that specializes in creating and producing videos, television, and multimedia content delivered over time to create sustained change and adoption of important leadership concepts.


Building Agility Across an Organization

Agility is the capacity of your business to anticipate, sense, respond to and sail efficiently through volatility in the markets, to survive and sustain. A business acquires agility to respond to volatility. Volatile business environment pushes you towards acquiring agility. Both go hand in hand.

Market environment is no longer volatile. It has acquired a new form; it has entered a new era where nothing is certain and businesses have to keep taking risks, come up with innovations and have strong willingness to grow even when future is unclear.

How do you do that? Is acquiring agility restricted to just C-suite or is it a responsibility of Human Resource Department (HRD)? Certainly not. Smart executives have realized that they can no longer count on superhuman efforts from their top talent or initiatives taken by the HRD. They have to adopt smarter ways; have an all-inclusive strategy to move towards agility.

Each department has to put in efforts. Each business function needs to be strategized. Every employee plays an important role in acquiring agility. The sense of urgency should prevail at all levels from top to bottom. Truly agile organizations realize that it is a collective effort of all departments and employees at all levels of hierarchy. A special report conducted by Walt Shill, David Mann, John F. Engel and Olaf Schatteman at Accenture, in collaboration with Massachusetts Institute of Technology offers businesses really useful insights on how to acquire agility in various business functions.

Steps to Build Agility Across Organization

1. Marketing – More Value Less Noise

Marketing is important for the sustenance of a business. Unless people know that a business exists, they can’t buy from it. Customer expectations are constantly rising. Buyers no longer are at the receiving end. They are actively involved in the sales and marketing channels. They not only consume information, but they are publishers as well. They share thoughts and what they experience with brand. They voice their opinions and do that in real time. Marketing should be quick to note such voices and update their message in sync with them.

In this context, agility also means keeping in constant touch with the customers, respond immediately to their needs and concerns and quickly predict trends and respond to the changes, while making less noise and offer more value.

You can make it possible by,

  • Involving your front desk or sales employees who directly interact with the customers
  • Collecting and using real time data to predict market trends
  • Pinpointing unexpected shifts in consumer behavior
  • Making good use of social media for connecting with the customers
  • Paying close attention to customer sentiments and acting very quickly on what’s being said

2. Operations – Be as Dynamic as Possible

In the period of permanent volatility, it’s become tough to decide whether to adopt just-in-time approach or to continue with steady production. Just-in-time makes sense in the face of unpredictability but then unexpected changes in prices of raw material, availability of right talent at the right time and natural disasters again put businesses in a critical situation. On the other hand, continuous production poses challenges as customer demands and interests keep on shifting.

The question arises – how to profit from uncertainty? How to acquire agility in operations? Here is what you can do:

  • Carry out well-documented tests at a rapid pace
  • Plan and execute parallel to each other
  • Quickly move from insights to action
  • Quickly transform data into information and ultimately into action
  • Parallel analysis of human capabilities and need for skill upgrade
  • Simple design and implementation procedures, which are flexible to accommodate changes
  • Planning and strategy for agile execution in face of natural disaster

3. Finance – Say No to Long Term Budgeting

A lot can happen during the one year. It is hard to predict exactly what will happen in one year. So in addition to long term budgeting – organizations need to be build room to be financially agile. They should always have investment available to take care of sudden changes in market conditions or to acquire other organizations and resources if such an opportunity comes up and makes business sense.

To build financial agility, here is what you can do,

  • Build dedicated financial teams for more concentrated efforts
  • Make a priority list and invest first in what matters the most
  • Plan for ‘what if’ situations, such as – what if you face economic crisis; what if your company have to go for immediate acquisition
  • Develop variable cost structures to reduce fixed expenses

4. HRD – Manage Your Talent Carefully

Human capital is important. An organization need to use the talent of its workforce in an efficient manner, to  survive and sustain. You need to work hard on a continuous basis to improve the capacity of your human resources.

Another important consideration is whether to do a task on your own or outsource it. Outsourcing may be cheap but sometimes, it’s necessary to carry out a particular job in-house. HR executives need to create a balance and manage permanent as well as temporary staff. In addition, it’s also important to:

  • Drive engagement among employees
  • Prepare workforce to understand the importance of adapting and responding to change
  • Seek ideas from people
  • Create a company culture that is innovation-friendly and gives ample room for creativity
  • Manage talent, upgrade their capabilities on continuous basis
  • Decide when to outsource
  • Create pair of resources to make sure that backup is available when needed
  • Build ownership at every level
  • Inspire people to lead by example

Truly agile organizations understand that each department and each individual needs to be agile in its approach – to turn challenges into opportunities in uncertain market scenario.

Does your organization think this way?

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