“By word and deed, leaders from a dynamic organization establish a management ethos of organizational agility— a set of cultural values and practices that help people work smarter, faster.”
The only thing predictable about change is that it will occur—rapidly, and often without warning.
When business change is incremental, organizations and teams with well-understood processes and solid discipline may perform extraordinarily well.
But when organizations try to apply these same approaches to more complex disruptions, the result can be disastrous. Rather than build a dynamic organization and help teams move faster, bureaucratic bloat and rigid processes instead create crippling blind spots in decision-making and communication.
The best organizations prepare for disruption before it occurs. By word and deed, leaders from a dynamic organization establish a management ethos of organizational agility—a set of cultural values and practices that help people work smarter, faster.
Put into practice, these 7 principles can immediately help your organization become speedier, more responsive, and more effective in the face of your toughest challenges.
7 Things You Must Do to Build Agility
- Establish Desired Outcomes for Absolutely Everything.
Every team. Every project. Every meeting. No exceptions. Organizational agility—the ability to move and adapt effectively to change—hinges on everyone having a mutual understanding of the desired destination. When the mission is well-defined and communicated, teams are able to operate quickly and autonomously to address change as it happens.
- Insist on Transparency.
Information silos can be a deadly barrier to speed and effectiveness. This is why dynamic organizations focus relentlessly on building agile work environments—physical and digital spaces where a “shared consciousness” can be cultivated across and within teams. These spaces are kept open and accessible, facilitating frequent personal interactions and highly visible information sharing.
- Build Networks.
Command-and-control organizational structures can make it difficult to adapt to changing markets. The most innovative organizations challenge the traditional hierarchy with a network of decentralized, but tightly aligned, teams. To build networks across the organization, increase the use of liaisons between teams or departments, and cultivate both formal and informal opportunities for teams to understand each other better.
- Empower the Front Line.
Nowhere is it written that executives have the best ideas. Empowering individuals and teams to gather intelligence, generate recommendations, and make local decisions are the bedrock to organizational agility. Don’t be afraid to push authority closer to the customer and trust your employees to organize and manage themselves.
- Make it Safe to Learn.
Innovative companies take risks. They encourage teams to experiment, learn by doing, and start by starting—to validate assumptions and be data-driven, and to celebrate failure that creates learning. Agile organizations don’t allow coasting—if you’re not moving forward, you aren’t sitting still: You’re moving backward.
- Focus on Simplicity.
Put simple rules in place to encourage limited scale (at a team and organizational level), reduce layers, and reduce time. Reduce waste and rework by doing small experiments before you commit sizeable resources to ideas that haven’t been tested yet.
- Let the Market Drive.
Let the market (not leaders) steer the organization. Through market pull, focus on value creation and relentlessly remove organizational debt—the people and culture problems that build up over time and ultimately impact customer outcomes.
Adopting these principles isn’t easy. It requires a significant culture shift for most organizations. However, companies who do successfully adopt all (or some of) these principles will be primed to thrive—even in the face of increasingly rapid change.