"Fit no stereotypes. Don’t chase the latest management fads. The situation dictates which approach best accomplishes the team’s mission.”
~ General Colin Powell
Agility has become critical due to the exponentially changing environment in which we all must function. An environment that is increasingly global, competitive, over regulated, complex, and ambiguous. Human beings generally do not like this kind of environment; we prefer instead predictability and a slower pace of change, functioning in our comfort zone. Hence, a disconnect between the pace of the environment and the ability of people to accommodate accelerated change in that environment What does organizational agility mean?
Organizational agility is the ability to read and understand a situation, and then quickly respond to that situation in the appropriate manner. As Coach John Wooden, former UCLA coaching great consistently taught his players: “be quick but don’t hurry”. Do not hurry about reading and understanding the situation, but once understood respond to it quickly. Expect and embrace change, see it as an opportunity rather than a barrier.
The new organizational mantra needs to be: observe, understand and respond. How do you create organizational agility? Preparing to respond quickly and appropriately consists of three culture strategies:
A clear and simple mission, clarity of purpose
An actively engaged workforce
A culture where norms and values are clearly taught, and lived out. There is clarity about how actively engaged people interact with one another. This would include virtues such as 100% Responsibility, high trust, and clear communication.
Focus on these three culture strategies represents the core of a highly effective and agile organization. Have absolute clarity about the mission. Make sure the mission is simple, understandable, and empowering. Hire people who are already actively engaged, coach and develop the disengaged, and move up or out the actively disengaged. Train and develop people to interact with one another utilizing the Seven Principles of a High Performing Team.
It should be recognized and emphasized that all the culture strategies discussed in this essay apply to not only
organizations or teams, but to individuals and their families. Agility is a value clearly applicable to all areas of your professional and personal life.
Additionally, when you overlay good tools and processes with the culture strategies listed above the net effect will be an organization that understands the environment and quickly and nimbly responds to it. As Coach Wooden so famously said: “Don’t watch the scoreboard, instead recruit players of character, who have quickness, and can play as a team with an effective culture. The scoreboard will take care of itself.” The overall organizational strategy thus becomes a focus on the culture. The fruit of this focus will be an agile organization and improved bottom line results.