The Agile, Resilient Organization - A Global Imperative
The World has Changed
It has become far more dynamic, unpredictable and complex. While technology and innovation are changing how we communicate, socialize, learn, and do business, unprecedented amounts of regulatory change are impacting everything we do. Everything seems faster and harder to plan for. Facing new types of competition, many companies are realizing the need to continuously explore new business models. With Fortune 500 companies disappearing far more quickly each year, this has becomes an imperative. Without resilience - the ability to adapt to unforeseen changes while maintaining core purpose – and agility – the ability to act, understand, and learn quickly, companies will not be able to deal with this 'perfect storm' of conditions.
Innovation and adaptiveness are unseating efficiency and scale as the primary levers of advantage in many industries. Despite all this change, and increasing evidence, most organizations and the way we manage them have remained more or less the same - they are machines built to excel in the age of industry - unfit to excel in the age of information - perhaps unfit for survival at all. Leaders and managers need new approaches to guide their organizations to success.
Our Businesses - Products of Our History
History is full of disruptions - unexpected changes so significant that they change the very nature of our businesses and organizations. The Industrial Revolution was one such disruption. With the invention of engines and greater machines came the ability to realize great benefits from efficiency and mass production. During these times we developed better ways to run machinery, and assembly lines, and other business processes - all focused on optimizing use of machines. We became better at specializing - when each person does their individual part well, overall success should result. Management’s job was clearly one of coordination and optimization of activity to maximize use of machinery. Lean and continuous improvement became popular during this time.
History Repeats Itself
The Information Age resulted from another disruption in the late 1900’s. Computers and the internet dramatically increased access to information and ease of communication globally. New ideas and new businesses became extraordinarily easier to introduce to wider and wider audiences. Later, mobile devices and social networking magnified the disruption - so that today, large companies find themselves unable to keep up with the increasing pace of change, new competitive pressures, new disruptive technology, and more. Now, our organizations and people - built and trained and educated to thrive in the age of machinery and industry, are no longer fit for their purpose.
Meet the New Boss...
Despite the disruption – and the overwhelming evidence for the need to be adaptive, agile, resilient, and innovative – most companies (or how we manage them) have not changed materially. Companies have been trying to take on new approaches without redesigning the organizational structures, processes, values, and culture required to support these new approaches.
…same as the old boss
This may result in short term excitement and benefit, but over time, improvement energy fizzles out and the greatest potential is never realized. The approach then becomes classified as the latest management fad or “buzz word”. With each new approach introduced without real impact, employees are drained of energy and excitement.
Completing the Puzzle
Flash forward to today, and the next puzzle pieces have been found - the organization that orients purpose and thrives in times of complexity and change, and the leader that designs environments in which their people can achieve success. It isn’t enough to “adopt” agile or any other method. To truly realize the benefits being sought after and remain competitive in today’s complex world, organizations will need to:
Develop agility - adaptive, lean approaches across the value stream are needed – in product delivery, discovery, design, and innovation
Develop resilience – objectives-based continuous improvement that tackles the most important changes at any time, and maintains connectivity to purpose
Encourage and require management and leadership to design environments in which purpose is paramount and structures, processes, and rules are continually recast to to clearly encourage and support the critical behaviors for success at any time.