The ability of an organization to respond to changes in both its internal and external environment is called agility. An organizations agility is paramount to its long term, and often its short term, success. The turbulence that businesses have been experiencing in the last several decades is not going away. Whether the challenges are created by political, climatic or economic events, the organization must respond rapidly, or whether, possibly dying in the process. The ability to respond to these challenges as well as identify and capture new opportunities is a key factor in ensuring the sustainability, and growth, of a business. The key is, Agile Leadership Drives Organizational Performance.
How do you make that happen?
Improving organizational agility has many advantages, among them, are increased revenues, improved customer satisfaction, happier employees, and improved company efficiency. Companies who do not have agility as one of their core competencies may well find themselves relegated to the “also-ran” group of mediocrity.
A business must possess two different types of agility; strategic and operational.
- Strategic agility, like strategy itself, involves risk, risk mitigation, an entrepreneurial spirit, and resilience.
- Operational agility is the speed by which an organization responds. This involves risk, risk mitigation, decisiveness, and resolve.
None of that happens without strong agile leaders. Leaders who are not embedded in the “this is the way we have always done it”, “precedence says we do it this way”, or any similar delay supporting statement that defies innovation, creativity or intrapreneurship in problem-solving.
“Agile Leadership Drives Organizational Performance.”
These leaders, agile leaders, possess several key characteristics. They are:
- An acceptance that change is inevitable and can happen at any time.
- The ability to think creatively. Often times called “out of the box thinkers.”
- An ability to envision an outcome of success and articulate the vision and the process to achieve that vision.
- The ability to balance multiple approaches, styles, and behaviors to achieve success.
- They see the big picture without losing sight of the short term.
Not every organization has agile leaders and not every organization has the ability to embrace agility. At least not as they see it. However, if the organization were to set aside “the way they have always done it” and accept that agile leaders can successfully engage within that culture, they may be favorably, and equally important profitably, surprised.
“Agile leaders are adept at capturing the extent of the business’s ability to adapt consistently…”
Agile leaders are adept at capturing the extent of the business’s ability to adapt consistently and not have to change their culture. That ability is what makes an organization able to respond to constant change without having to endure the added burden of changing its culture.
Managing change, without overwhelming change, is a critical skill for leaders. These are leaders who can make decisions, solve problems, and navigate through or around barriers to achieve success. They are successful because they can work within the organization’s culture while achieving success because of change. Let’s look at an example. John is a salesman, he has many different clients and many different sales approaches to use. His company has instructed him on their culture and methods of selling their products. One of his prospective clients wants to buy but will not buy with the current structure of the product. This potential new account is worth millions. If John is able to creatively resolve the issue, without causing a loss for his company, he will demonstrate leadership agility. If John, or the company, resist a creative solution because “this is how we do it” then the opportunity is lost and the potential customer goes to a competitor.
Agility is important.
Companies do not one day wake up and decide “we are going to be agile.” They do decide that a strategic objective of theirs is to develop a more agile leadership and through them, become a more agile business. The skills necessary to become an agile business must be learned and practiced. Leaders must be taught the following
- How to prepare for change
- How to develop plans and actions
- How to take experience and turn it into a solution
- How to respond to change without having to change
Until your leaders master these skills the ability of the business to truly be agile, will be limited. Once your leadership has mastered these skills, your organization will be able to effectively and quickly respond to changing circumstances, while also taking advantage of growth and new market opportunities.