Organizational Agility: The Art of Re-Invention

The more I read about innovation and how it is influencing us day by day… influencing what we like, what we search for, how we form opinions and how we make decisions, the more I become super charged with the importance of how this is critical in how organizations are managed and how people are at the front line.

In my view, at the center of this is culture.  Whether you are part of a start-up, a home grown business or a corporate enterprise; culture plays a key role in not only influencing bottom line, but also business predictability, speed of response to market change, changing consumer needs, or customer sentiment; you name it.

The name of the game is agility.  How fast you’re able to think and innovate, succeed, fail, learn, change and innovate once more.  The meaning of innovation here is not only relevant to a specific industry, product or size of business.  It is innovation in how work is done, how processes and outputs are challenged to evolve and how the culture of any business transforms.

If you research the term ‘organizational agility’ you will come to the conclusion that it is all about adaptability to change.  How resilient an organization will withstand generational change, autonomy of lifestyle, how information is accessed, analyzed and consumed; these form some of the pieces of the puzzle.

When you think about this in the context of organizations, building successful businesses that are able to come up with strategies that will yield the biggest return on investment while maintaining stability is hard.  Agility requires stability.  As organizations identify the why and start venturing on the how, this is where the core skills of being nimble, communicative and adaptive kick-in.   

Among my favorite readings around this subject is a study prepared by the World Economic Forum1 that highlights the core skillet principles for Leaders as they venture into transformative, un-treaded grounds, anxious from what they might be faced with.  Among some of the highlights of this study are the following fundamentals ….

  1. Awareness: how strategically aware and prepared is your organization?  How relevant is this to the core of what you do?

  2. Organizational Agility:  adopting organizational structures that are lean and adaptive and augmenting your workforce with the technological tools that will help them manage information and data and make changes as they go.  Does the organization allow for human innovation and creativity?

  3. Continuous Learning:  does the culture of your organization value and promote a culture of risk taking, learning as you go and course correcting, as need be?  The best learning environments are created when we try new things, learn from others and adapt as we go.  I will carefully use the word ‘blended learning’ in my description, but it does hold true; learning with every encounter, out of every situation and creating work environments that encourage and reward learning from others.

  4. Leadership Adaptability:  leaders who are open and adaptive to changing their leadership style and approach to leading as the world of work changes.  Being more inclusive of diverse ideas and ways of thinking, gender and generational inclusion, as well as driving a culture of coaching.

  5. Empowered Employees:  empowerment shaped in the internal policies and procedures of how decisions are made.  Being able to offer technologies that free up employees from routine tasks and puts information in their hands to be able to make quick and information based decisions.   

Organizations with the mindset of creating and enabling the culture of agility generate a competitive advantage that forms their brand and is reflected in how effective, efficient and rewarding it will be for their business.

Building an Effective Organizational Culture in the New World of Work

With the ongoing greater access to technology breaking down barriers, consumer behavior becoming highly influenced by on-line reviews and ratings, social media offering a stronger voice and the ongoing challenges of economies, whether in mature markets or in emerging markets, applying this to the global talent market, and its challenges, hold true. Knowledge workers are now part of a global talent workforce, borders have been removed, talent is more inclined to work anywhere and is selectively making choices.

Talent is now sitting in the driver’s seat; making the choices based on personal motivators, priorities and alignment to a personal sense of purpose. With that said, employers have the added advantage of the GIG economy coming into play, allowing for a new talent force to present itself in the new world of work.

With that said, companies have started to prioritize strategies that enable them to leverage their size, reach and distribution. Companies scaling across geographies, have started to look at ways to incentivize and reward collaboration and team work that are tied to measurable objectives and outcomes. Others have focused on institutionalizing cultures of learning, rewarding those who enable it, those who consume it and welcoming the culture of self-reflection. 

On the organization level, the introduction of different assessments, more often, sometimes channeled towards specific populations. On the people level, the usage of psychometric assessments for people to better understand their drivers and motivators, as well as usage of these tools in building team dynamics.

With the changes in the world of work, organizations have been pushing the envelope trying to learn more about concepts of leaner, more productive workforce, while also building a workplace that offers flexibility and is best suited for the drivers of the behaviors and values that companies prioritize for themselves; while being highly influenced by what the global workforce needs and wants.

In addition, global trends are showing more and more businesses moving towards smarter, more communicative tools driven by chat bots, smarter search engines enabled by artificial intelligence, easier and faster recognition and reward that is immediate and relevant. Companies are pursuing opportunities to leverage solutions that can answer these needs faster and cheaper, while continuing to follow the dynamic introduction of new tools and solutions that keep their workforce more engaged, productive and agile. Tools that enable organizational alignment thru effective sharing of the goals and results.  Creating circles of influence in the organization that help drive the ‘right’ behaviors and enable success.  

Other tools like automated career pathing, puts the employee in the center of this process, providing them the tools and transparency to make forward looking decisions that are realistic and relevant.

Taking the above into account, companies start questioning how they can continuously evolve their culture to not only reflect on bottom line success, but would drive more competitiveness, do away with the ‘sense of entitlement’ mindset, encourage people to go the extra mile. 

Thru years of work, psychologists have been able to uncover that the driver for motivation and achievement is highly influenced by a person’s ‘mindset’. Being fixated on the way things are done, how a person learns and how they deal with others based on a fixed point of view created limitations for learning, growing and subsequently outperforming their own achievements.

Accordingly, influencing the mindset of how people perceive their abilities, how they move from being fixated on how things are done to becoming more open to learn, grow and welcome feedback are some of the key opportunities of self-learning, learning from others and being more open to doing things differently. Focusing on the process that leads to learning (collaborating with others, doing things differently), increases the changes of more success guided by the philosophy of a ‘growth mindset’