Adjusting to Disruption: How to Build a Culture of Organizational Agility

March 5, 2019
| ByGina Jessica Smith

Technology disruption is changing the face of business, and without organizational agility, companies may not be able to adapt to these changes – going the way of a Sears or other big-name brands of the past. Agility can make or break a brand.

The term “agility” often gets confused with speed. However, being agile is not just about being fast. In sports, agility actually refers to the ability to change directions quickly and accurately. In software development, “agile” refers to a methodology that speeds up production through flexible collaboration. In business, an agile company is one that can rapidly adapt in response to market conditions, new technologies, or competitive considerations. And today, being agile is critical for businesses that want to succeed.

Why Invest in Organizational Agility?

According to a Deloitte survey, 88 percent of professionals believe building a future-ready business is one of the most important projects businesses should undertake. Furthermore, that same survey found that 94 percent of professionals believe collaboration and agility are essential to business success.

Some of the more obvious reasons for this shift towards agility include rapid advancements in technology, new audiences, globalization, and mobile-first approaches to business, marketing, and communications.

Given the rapid rate of technological disruption, brands should invest in agility initiatives to build stronger, faster, and more adaptable teams ready to take on whatever the world throws at them. Additionally, an organizational shift towards optimization and forward thinking can radically transform a business and improve its ability to stay relevant in the eyes of increasingly fickle customers.

5 Ways to Promote A Culture of Agility

A number of qualities contribute to making an organization more agile. This includes quality leadership, level of risk tolerance, and success with customer experience. The ability to find the right balance between short-term goals and long-term objectives is also crucial. Here are some steps to improve agility at an organization:

  1. Simplify Operations

Internal teams need to be fast, efficient, effective, and focused. But they also need to adapt and change quickly based on shifting market demands, emerging technologies, and evolving trends. Being focused alone won’t work, if the focus is in the wrong direction.

In order to quickly respond to change, businesses should have a system in place optimized for swift movement. Optimizing by simplifying is one way to prepare a professional culture for unexpected disruption.

For starters, teams need to take a look at their processes. How many steps are involved? Can these steps be reduced? From approvals to brainstorms to procedural paperwork, unnecessary steps slow down business. Managers can reduce unnecessary bureaucracy and streamline production, so when new technologies or unexpected demands arise, the team can easily switch gears.

  1. Promote Communication and Collaboration

Another way companies can ready their culture for change is by promoting a culture of communication and collaboration. When businesses make these two “Cs” a top priority, they can plan for change as a team, as opposed to being reactive and scrambling to adjust to unexpected challenges.

Communication is key. If teams don’t communicate, important details can get left out, and a project can suffer. Poor communication is often cited as the number one reason for project failure. As a whole, businesses need to promote honest, transparent, and consistent communication. This keeps all team members on the same page. Similarly, it allows for growth and innovation through the sharing of new ideas and new perspectives.

Collaboration takes communication one step further and involves getting all members of a team to contribute and feel like their ideas are heard and have value. It’s not an accident that the agile methodology used in software development is based on collaboration. Collaboration works.

  1. Plan Ahead, with Contingencies

Agility is all about being prepared and adapting to change. So, to solidify a successful process, teams need to create a number of different plans that all have room for flexibility and growth. Being agile is not about reacting but about anticipating. By promoting collaboration and innovation internally, managers can encourage team members to push boundaries and try new things without the fear of being punished.

More and more companies are planning ahead through the process of innovation — 88 percent of companies surveyed in a recent study promote new ideas within their culture. This helps teams plan for change, because it gives employees the freedom to learn, grow, and explore. That way, when change hits, they can easily switch gears and create a successful and innovative contingency plan on the fly.

  1. Build Strong, Flexible Organizational Structures

Disruption can be fast-paced, chaotic, and confusing. At its worst, it can be all-encompassing. But despite this, businesses need to prepare for change while still instilling a structure of organization and stability. It can be easy to get caught up in the craziness of rapid change. But this only hurts a business.

Smart companies prepare and establish innovative, fluid, and efficient organizational structures internally. This ensures that when a campaign needs to be shuttered in light of new insights and consumer demands, the team knows which procedures to follow, what steps to take, and which boxes to check in order to see the new, revised project through quickly.

  1. Collect Feedback and Proactively Make Changes

Long gone are the days when companies could ignore their employees’ feedback and expect to succeed. This top-down approach no longer works in the age of technology disruption. In order to stay on top of emerging trends in the market, managers need to talk with their teams and get honest feedback.

In the age of diversity and inclusion, diversity of thought is an increasingly valuable commodity for companies that want to get the most out of their employees. It is actually shown to encourage “out of the box” thinking and creativity.

Similarly, systems should be in a place where companies can gather feedback from their audience, positioning themselves as a consumer-first brand ready to adapt and evolve based on what their audience wants. Businesses can do this in the form of online surveys, interviews, forums, and more.

The Power of Organizational Agility

The world is evolving, and companies need to plan for future changes before it’s too late. By fostering a culture of agility and adaptability, businesses can be sure their teams can turn on a dime and meet the challenges of a rapidly changing world.

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