5 Ways to Build and Improve Organizational Agility

Organizational agility has become a strategic priority for organizations in every sector, especially in the past several years.

The ability to readily and effectively implement organizational change, in other words, has become an essential business function.

To build that agility, however, it is necessary to cultivate new mindsets, redesign business processes, and create a new workplace.

Below, we’ll learn why agility is so necessary in these volatile times, then cover five key areas that can enable agility and change.

Is Organizational Agility Only Important for Tech Companies?

In short, the answer is no – agility is essential for driving growth, regardless of the industry.

There are several reasons for this:

  • The entire economy is transforming rapidly
  • Digital technology is fueling digitization across every sector
  • Other forces, such as customer demand and competitive pressure, compel change

It should also go without saying that COVID-19 has created a volatile business environment, and that volatility is one more reason why agility is so necessary.

Yet the exact meaning of agility – much less how to become agile – remains ambiguous for many professionals.

Next, we’ll clarify that definition, then explore five ways that businesses and institutions can improve their agility.

5 Business Areas that Can Enable Change Readiness

Organizational agility, according to McKinsey, refers to an organization’s ability “to renew itself, adapt, change quickly, and succeed in a rapidly changing, ambiguous, turbulent environment.”

They go on to say that agility must have two key components: the ability to move fast and a stable foundation.

Though these two may seem mutually exclusive, they are both essential for agility.

Next, we’ll cover a few ways to build out both of these factors and fully enable agility at the organizational level:

1. Organizational structure

One of the key areas to focus on when implementing a change-ready business is structure – that is, processes, workflows, the corporate hierarchy, and governance.

Becoming agile depends on the use of structures and processes that are more dynamic, flexible, and nimble.

For instance:

  • Agile business processes focus on areas such as user input, user feedback, and user-centric design in order to stay flexible and responsive
  • Lean business processes are also built around incremental, user-driven processes, which improves adaptability and agility
  • Data-driven business processes often emphasize flexibility and agility, since they revolve around the use of real-world data, rather than static processes or predetermined plans

Processes such as these can ultimately help a business stay dynamic in a business environment that is itself dynamic and continually changing.

At the same time, however, they also offer the stability needed to drive business agendas forward consistently.

2. IT systems and infrastructure

What is digitization?

Today, every business professional should know the answer to this question.

Digitization and technology-driven innovation, after all, drive the modern economy. And the disruption caused by these changes is what compels the need for organizational agility.

Staying agile, therefore, requires several components:

  • Modern IT systems
  • Well-integrated software stacks
  • Business processes that make full use of the organization’s digital tools
  • Proactive digital transformation strategies

Implementing modern IT systems can certainly boost an organization’s agility and resilience, by enabling companies to keep up with the dynamic economy, changing customer sentiment, and real-time events.

Systems and processes, however, are only part of the picture – agility also depends on employees’ ability to use their digital tools.

3. Digital savviness

Digital literacy and digital savviness is crucial to maintaining a productive and agile workforce.

When employees have the skills to adopt new tools quickly and efficiently, they will be able to innovate and adapt more quickly.

In contrast, employees without a digital-first mindset will have a harder time adopting new tools, it will take them longer to become productive, and there will be more resistance to change.

To mitigate such risks, it is important to have a well-structured digital adoption program that:

  • Simplifies software onboarding
  • Streamlines employee training
  • Offers self-service solutions

A goal-oriented adoption program such as this can help create self-sufficiency and digital literacy among the workforce. That independence, in turn, will significantly improve organizations’ ability to adopt new digital technology and adapt to the changing digital economy.

4. Organizational culture

Organizational culture change can help the workforce become more agile and adaptable which, in turn, boosts the organization’s overall agility.

Though there is certainly no such thing as a “perfect” organizational culture, there are certain traits that are more suitable for today’s business environment.

For instance, traits such as these can help the workforce become more agile and adaptable:

  • Pro-learning
  • A digital-first, data-driven mindset
  • Self-reliance and independence
  • Innovation and creativity
  • Openness to change and new ideas

By instilling these types of values into a company’s mission and strategy, business leaders can build a resilient, agile, change-ready culture.

5. Enterprise change management

The definition of change management refers to the overall practice of managing an organizational change.

This process involves processes such as removing barriers to change, building a change management communication strategy, coordinating change teams, and managing change projects.

Enterprise change management, on the other hand, refers to an organization’s capacity for change.

An organization that wants to build out its capacity for change, according to experts at the Prosci change management consultancy, should be built around a few principles.

These include:

  • Institutionalizing change management competencies and practices at every level of the organization
  • Ensuring that change management is the organization’s standard operating procedure
  • Maintaining change management as the rule, not the exception
  • Internalizing change leadership into the mindsets and values of the workforce

When goals such as these have been accomplished, organizational changes will run more smoothly and efficiently – and, ultimately, improve organizational agility.

Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.