As disruptive pressures build on organisations, we asked Conrad Thompson, PA business transformation expert, how organisational agility and its focus on simplicity creates opportunities to evolve.
I see organisations under great pressure. They’re dealing with unpredictable customers, fast-changing markets, new competition and technology – and, of course, investors who want results now, not years down the line. When opportunities come, they need to be ready to take them.
Under pressure, businesses fall back on what they know, or at least they think, works. In most cases, that’s exactly what they shouldn’t be doing. They should be experimenting. Because that could be the only way to react fast enough amid all the change, or – even better – set the pace themselves.
There’s a tendency for business leaders to assume they know what’s best, and that their product or service is so good that customers will always want it. It’s the same with their people. Decide everything through top-down hierarchies and the best ideas will come naturally to the surface. But by working like this, businesses are storing up trouble.
Our research into agile organisations found the most successful businesses keep their systems simple and turn ideas into value fast. Everyone always nods when they hear this – they know it’s what they need to be doing. But many find it surprisingly hard to do. And that’s often because of how they’re set up. Nearly two-thirds of business leaders told us they need to fundamentally rethink their business model.
You could look to a company like Morning Star Company, the world’s biggest tomato processor, based in California. It doesn’t have any supervising managers. Instead, people manage themselves and take responsibility for their part in the business. The fact that it’s such a big business and in such a traditional sector shows this kind of radical change isn’t the preserve of tech start-ups.
Can old dogs learn ingenious new tricks?
Morning Star has taken one radical approach, but there could be a different, better way of running your business that’s not the way you operate today. The work we do with businesses, and the conversations we have with them, suggests that being ready to adapt and progress further, faster boils down to several things. Flatten hierarchies to make the business more responsive. Empower decision-making at all levels. Organise teams based on how they create value for customers, not by grouping skills together. And stay open-minded to what your business’s data is telling you.
These are all features of organisations that understand today’s answer might not be the right answer tomorrow, and they actively embrace that. These are agile organisations that create the chance to change.