Organizational Agility: Key to Post-COVID Business Growth

Blog Contributed by:
Sara Afzal
Management Consultant | Highly Keen Management Institute


Organizational agility refers to a company’s ability to rapidly change or adapt in response to changes in the market. Before COVID-19 strike, businesses were already in the need of finding ways to make decisions and manage changes more quickly than ever before. This pandemic has just accelerated the process and intensified the accent of those needs. Irrespective of what is the size of the organization, businesses were never under this much pressure of altering their business models so they can fit with respect to the everchanging business requirements. There seems to be nothing that is temporary about this need for speed because —forces of change like digitization, globalization, automation, analytics, and others will also keep accelerating. Many industry and economy experts have already said that “The pace of change had never been this fast” and we rightly believe so.


To survive in this extreme volatile, uncertain, intricate, and ambiguous world, most of the companies are gaining benefits by adopting agility in their operations. Companies across a wide range of industries are aligning their efforts to optimize their performance in all the varying functions of their businesses in order to capture the best possible value.
Agile organizations have so far outperformed others in adapting to the challenges posed by COVID-19. By re-evaluating their priorities and opting for approaches having a performance-oriented approach (focused around Key Performance Indicators – KPIs), they have accelerated the pace of their work and have well adapted to new industry settings. Organizations that have set up the weekly and daily review of performance through KPIs of agile teams have even worked well despite the work from home and remote settings. This has also given business leaders an overview of how well and quickly things are happening and a sense of where to pay more attention for improved results.


There’s no best time


Organizations going to opt for agility must envision themselves around products they offer, customer expeditions, processes they opt and other axes of value generation. Naturally, this means a transition from complex and multilayered organizations into much less layered and simpler hierarchies. In addition to changing the reporting structures, agile organizations also simultaneously need to modify their business processes, technology and people models.


All such changes with the operating model—organization’s structure, processes, technology or people – might seem scary or unachievable amidst a worldwide pandemic. But at the same time, in order to capture and sail along the next wave of productivity, customer delightness and employee engagement; the pressure on businesses to transform themselves for better is increasing with every passing minute. A large number of organizations would prefer to transform themselves under much softer and quiet conditions, but successful would be those who understand that such times might never come again. Also, since these turbulent times have already disrupted the status quo, the business leaders might take it as an opportunity to reinvent the ways of doing work.


Initiating Business Transformations in Volatility


I strongly believe that organizations can alter their operating models even when they are working remotely during these turbulent times—especially when there is also an ongoing debate that smooth times are a hard catch now. So will the journey be even? No, but when has an agile transformation been smooth? It is true that companies now need to consider a lot more issues relating to transformation as compared to if the transformations were done in smoother times, but these problems can either be solved or at least altered for better. Companies considering a large-scale transformation in these times need to think about four important issues:


1. Don’t jump directly to XYZs. Before diving head straight into the transformation, invest enough time to chalk out your aspirations, the basics of change work scope that is needed, and the assurance it requires from you. Setting clear aspirations means to become clear about the “why” of your agility goal: what are the targets you want to meet and the value you aim to provide? What are the targeted milestones you want to achieve?


2. Start with leaders. Although there are situations where organizations do launch radical agility initiatives, but in these times approaching it in steps by launching pilots either in the departments that can sustain transformation impact, or with the heads who welcome it more as compared to others. This just requires the organization to choose such areas where it can show real gains and then immediately launch teams that demonstrate what agility really means. These leaders help you build an operating model that delivers results even in remote settings.


3. Implement the Change in Fullest while embracing people side of change. Agility is not about new reporting structures or random guidelines about minor process changes. Change at the organization wide level requires changes across the organization that includes the network of empowered teams, quick decision making, an active and engaging people model that kindles passion, and advanced enabling technology.


4. Prefer people over process. Lastly, agility represents an essential change in the culture and in expectations. You need to ensure that your people’s journey of change is transformative – no matter how life altering that change is, it should not be perceived as disruptive. Also, the remote working models increase the need to communicate more and more, so you need to encourage people connections, and offer maximum possible support to people during these transitions.


The global situations and local or industry conditions will continue to change each and every day, no matter when you commence charting your course to agility. Thus, to maintain your transformations on track, you need to be sure that you have a clear vision of the desired result i.e. your end goal and also of the benefits you seek. Do not take it lightly and to create a great organization that’s fit for the future, keep your sights higher.