The turn of the year has us all doing a performance analysis. As a leader, how and where did we thrive in the last year? What needs to improve? What competitive strengths did we sustain or build, and (so importantly) what needs to happen to reach the next set of growth objectives?
Innovation, knowledge and agility are powerful competitive advantages. They drive trends and events on a global scale. And three primary deep fundamentals of change are influencing organizations from the outside in:
1. Acceleration of time
2. Increased borderlessness
3. Massive knowledge creation and sharing
These fundamentals have radically impacted the global marketplace. And they promise to continue to shape the environment in which your organization operates. The relationship between your businesses, workforce, leadership and the global marketplace has to evolve. And that requires a strategy for ingraining an agility mindset into every facet of your organization.
In the Industrial Age, it was common for businesses to start each year with strategic direction imparted from the top of the organization. While that model certainly still exists, it is not only antiquated, it is detrimental to growth. In the Knowledge Age, strategy making is a constant, and agility has become part of the organizational behavior, core values and culture.
In fact, for the successful disruptors, strategic planning has accelerated to a monthly or even weekly objective. We see validation for this new model of strategic planning in every corner of the economy where innovators are winning and old guard corporations slide. The reasons might be competitive – giant disruptor Amazon has grabbed market share, shuttering companies like Borders. Or they can be related to pace of change – banks slow to come online are closing branches as more people use mobile banking apps than visit their local representative.
The Constant Cycle
As examples like this show, it’s not possible to stay nimble by relying on yearly strategy sessions. Agility is built through a constant cycle that integrates market sensing and orienting, product and services planning and response, and human performance adjustments.
Everyone in the organization must be charged and empowered with collecting, analyzing, and disseminating data in order to feed this continuous strategic churn. For many leaders, that means a total reinvention of the organizational hierarchy.
The model of future focused agility has implications for every part of the organization. You’re processing external factors on a global scale. Internally, innovation and iteration are happening faster and more constantly. And leadership within the organization is dictated not by titles and tasks, but by shared objectives and useful intelligence.
Understand Your Place and Unify the Organization
Future Proof® companies are resilient against the constant stream of new risks and competitive threats. Establishing the ability to innovate and disrupt markets begins with understanding where your organization exists in the marketplace, and the direction it is headed. With that knowledge, the organization has the intelligence necessary to be preactive with a high degree of confidence. The process requires a series of steps:
Executing these strategic components can be as simple as starting with weekly organizational ‘temperature check’ meetings. Coming together regularly has been shown to help organizations remain on the pulse of innovation, economic shifts, and other critical market changes. Keeping the floodgates for information open and allowing for everyone to participate in the process of developing strategy equips companies to integrate a proactive mindset into the company’s DNA.
Ultimately, a successful agility model is built on your company being a sensing organization in which everyone is working cohesively to assimilate, share and employ data quickly and constantly. These are the organizations that out-maneuver competition, respond and innovate faster, and lead change.
As a leader, a concerted agility strategy allows you to empower and propel dialog that unifies the workforce in working toward a productive vision. This is your framework for strength in 2016 and the foreseeable future.
It is time to build a strategy for agility.
Deborah Westphal is a passionate humanist who has guided our era’s top minds and leaders to challenge biases, ignite ideas, and build connections and resilience for a secure and sound future. Her career spans more than 30 years in government agencies and Fortune 100 companies, and on virtually every continent. In 1999, Alvin Toffler tapped her as one of the founding members of his eponymous consulting firm, Toffler Associates. From 2007 through 2018, she served as the firm’s CEO and has since contributed her experience and knowledge as a member of the board. Through her work, she has guided notable organizations including Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Marriott, U.S. Air Force, Baxter International, Bayer, Heinz, Microsoft, Koppers, PPG, DARPA, National Security Agency, Loral Space Systems, NASA, Qwest, Verizon, and Westinghouse. Deborah’s empathetic and thought-provoking style helps readers spot patterns that signify future risks and opportunities. She’s a sought-after speaker and writer who provided the Foreword to After Shock. Her book, Convergence: Technology, Business, and the Human-Centric Future, was published in May 2021 by Unnamed Press. Find her at deborahwestphal.com.
Toffler Associates is a future-focused strategic advisory firm. Our Future Proof® business consulting approach helps global leaders understand how future shifts impact current decisions so they can take advantage of opportunity, manage risk, and create future value.
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