TechTarget defines business agility as “a concept whereby organizations seek to approach their operations and resources in a flexible, responsive manner.” Yet, many executives and employees who have experienced the imposition — rather than the implementation — of a business agility approach in their enterprise have another, less inspiring definition: chaos, chaos, and more chaos.
However, the root cause of this aversion has nothing to do with business agility itself, and everything to do with the mistaken perception that agility and stability are opposites. In truth, they’re compliments. As observed by McKinsey’s Aaron De Smet: “Agility is not incompatible with stability — quite the contrary. Agility requires stability for most companies.”
As such, the follow-up question to “how do we take advantage of business agility?” isn’t “how do we get rid of structure?” Paradoxically, it’s “what kind of structure do we need to make this work?”
Naturally, each enterprise must unravel the granular details and specifics for itself. The formula that works for an engineering firm is unlikely to be the right one for a healthcare organization. What’s more, even within fields there are major distinctions among principals and players.
Yet with this being said, there are general characteristics that all enterprises – regardless of sector and specialization – should be mindful of when shaping the structure that will ultimately enable business agility and drive results; instead of impede business agility and unleash chaos. These characteristics are: teamwork, visibility, WCM, and employee engagement.
- Teamwork: Teams are the engine of business ability. Whether they are fixed, cross-functional or flash, teams must have the tools, workflows, processes and policies they need to be fully enabled, authorized and accountable.
- Visibility: With business agility, the focus shifts from performing tasks and conducting activities, to achieving desired results in the shortest possible time. Visibility is necessary so that teams and individuals can see where they are, where they’re going, or how their decisions impact the bigger picture.
- Work Collaboration Management (WCM): Conventional collaboration is not designed for the business agility landscape, because it lacks context, is too slow, and doesn’t inherently push work towards closure. Work Collaboration Management fills this gap, because it fosters ongoing, real-time dialogue among relevant stakeholders about what matters, but without sacrificing the integrity of task-oriented problem solving and decision-making.
- Employee Engagement: For business agility to work, enterprises need ALL of their people to be creative, innovative, efficient, and constantly searching for smarter ways to deliver value. Reminding employees that they’re valued and trusted is important; but it’s not enough. They also need to see this commitment reflected in the tools, technologies and systems at their disposal.
Consider Your Structure
TechTarget is right; business agility is indeed “a concept whereby organizations seek to approach their operations and resources in a flexible, responsive manner.” But structure isn’t the enemy here, and it shouldn’t be feared, dreaded, or driven out of the environment. Rather, enterprises need to re-evaluate and re-shape their structure so that it drives business agility rather than undermines it. And they’ll know they’re on the right track when the structure meaningfully sustains and measurably enhances teamwork, visibility, WCM and employee engagement.