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Organizational agility. Are you serious about it?

Adam Singer shared his thoughts about how organizational agility benefits social media and marketing efforts. As I read his thoughts I couldn’t help but think about how much I agreed with him and have struggled to promote this concept in the work place. Organizational agility is easier in new or small organizations that either don’t have the staffing to promote extra processes or have not yet had time to establish layers of processes. But how does an established organization find agility since human nature is to add processes and approvals as time passes?

Organizational Agility

Organizational Agility

To explore this question let’s first consider a few of the root causes of multiple layers of processes and approvals to get work done in an organization. One reason is to add a toll gate or checkpoint in a process after a failure. We want to ‘make sure that failure doesn’t happen again’ so we add a new checkpoint in the process.

Another reason for overly complex systems of approvals and reviews is it protects those in power through organizational reporting hierarchy. It maintains the status quo! When one has organizational power they typically don’t like being by-passed in decisions of the organizations voice and output.

Jim Collins in his book “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t” states that “Bureaucratic cultures arise to compensate for incompetence and lack of discipline, which arise from having the wrong people on the bus.  A culture of discipline involves a duality On the one hand, it requires people who adhere to a consistent system; yet, on the other hand, it gives people freedom and responsibility within the framework of the system.”

Collins’ idea about a culture of discipline and an ethic of entrepreneurship are exactly what is needed within an organization to make it agile and nimble. Think about it. If the organization is aligned and the contributing members are working towards a common goal with the freedom to make decisions, then how much more would the organization be able to accomplish? Call it agility, call it empowered employees, call it a culture of entrepreneurship. At the end of the day, it will accomplish more in less time. The great thing is that customers reward agile customer focus from informed and empowered employees.  Employees are happier when they can do the work they were hired to do instead of spending half their time filling out forms or documents and waiting on approvals.

It’s the great business paradox of our day: We want to be nimble and get things done faster, but we must follow all the process and bureaucracy in place to make it happen.

I’d like to explore this topic further in future posts with some specific ideas about making an organization more agile to help promote eCommerce and Internet Marketing activities. Processes certainly have a place with the system of work output. But how can we make sure the process benefits us rather than owns us?

  • What you are really saying is that as managers we need to put in place the structures… the frameworks… and set and manage the objectives. Within that set of structures and frameworks… and against the objectives of the organization… we need to let people do that they think is right. Rather than put in process and bureaucracy to control failure… we need accountability for results. Only when we hold people accountable for results will we get the outcomes we desire.

  • Yes. That makes sense to me. We need to manage a system and allow people the flexibility to be creative to solve problems. Good people are hired to create solutions that the customer values. That creates the transaction of business. That also creates a more agile organization.

  • Actually, I can’t remember where I read it or studied it. But the gist is, Phizer has mega projects that are deeply connected to scientists and researchers. When a Phizer project goes to the bitter end, because the researcher or project managers does want to cancel it because of bonus, royalties, you are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars. So Phizer now gives a bonus to the people who cancel a project. Pharmaceutical projects have big risks and virtual black boxes of unknowns. Killing projects early allows people and resources to respond quicker.

    So the accountability is for the doing the right thing.