It is February 1964 and we are into round six of a boxing match. Sonny Liston, the most feared boxer of his time, is seething: he just can’t seem to land a punch on this young guy facing him in the ring. Bobbing and weaving like a butterfly, he seems to positively float across the ring. The exasperated Liston gives up a short while later. Defeated by Cassius Clay, who is later to go down in the annals of sporting history as Muhammad Ali – famed for his unique boxing style.
The “greatest of all time” – his secret to success was speed and an irrepressible agility. For companies today, this connection between agility and success is no longer a secret: they are forced to adapt to new market conditions with increasing speed. Just as force means nothing in boxing without speed, market power also loses its impact without agility. While companies don’t have to bob and weave like Muhammad Ali, they must always be able to change direction at any time to avoid walking straight into a left jab.
Agility is a question of attitude: agile companies – and above all their employees – are open to fresh impulses and rapid changes of direction. This creates the ability to react quickly to changing market conditions. Not every ten years, but every day anew.
Agile organizations combine dynamism and stability. Their central vision is the North Star, guiding the company in its course. A scalable framework enables efficiency. Based on the corporate vision, a network of agile teams who work as autonomously as possible – and always with the client’s benefit in mind. This network multiplies the speed, flexibility and also the teams’ identification with the goals to be achieved. Within this organization, each employee contributes his or her skills in such a way as to make the greatest possible contribution to the company’s success.
The development of products and services also functions very differently: they are constantly improved in iterative stages, each of which forms the basis for the next, and introduced into the market as soon as possible. The concept of enterprise agility currently has the strongest presence in the software development sector, whose very existence after all depends on generating market innovations. Agility as a basic principle can, however, be applied to all industries and areas of business. An agile company management system creates added value for management, Human Resources, engineering, sales, etc. And at the centre of this management system are the employees – they are not merely implementers, but entrepreneurs.
A comparison between the world’s most valuable companies in 2010 and today quickly shows that a lot has changed. Only one company was able to maintain its position among the top five. Significantly, this is also the only technology company on the list. All the others (two oil companies, a retailer and a bank) were displaced within only a few years.
There are also far-reaching disruptions at the individual sector level. New competitors and technologies create constant movement. The most well-known examples are based on business models that did not even exist a few years ago. The share economy and platform industries are disrupting the business world. The pressure to modernise caused by the digital transformation does the rest. In a world of instant responsiveness, customer requirements are increasing – but so are employees’ expectations.
In the face of this challenge, traditional, rigid structures have had their day. Companies must align their organizational designs, processes and solution portfolios with agility, adaptive approaches and fast-moving market dynamics. Where once the main tenet was “big beats small”, today it is “fast and agile beats slow and steady”. Like Cassius Clay vs. Sonny Liston.
Companies do not want to change. But they must. The future demands both flexibility and efficiency. This can only work by updating the company management system to agile networks. Organizational development must take up this challenge.
We need to get rid of silo mentality and make sure that people do the right thing together – instead of everyone muddling along by themselves. This is the only way they can develop their full potential. Employees in agile teams are like powerful speedboats driving innovations ahead.
Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee
The key to this is the Enterprise Agility Solution Package, which helps companies become fast and agile. It creates opportunities for employees to network outside the traditional line organization. Project teams come together in a self-organised manner. And feedback flows directly – adding value and without hindrance from hierarchical or departmental boundaries.
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In companies, hierarchical top-down units can exist alongside agile networks, interact efficiently and make maximum contributions in all corporate sub-areas. Make the most of both worlds with an employee-centred company management system.
Depending on their own interests and identified weaknesses, employees are offered short learning nuggets on key agile working methods and transformation topics. These micro learning units are short, precise and easy to find.
The marketplace functions as a kind of job exchange where project teams come together in a self- organised manner, independently from the traditional line organisation. This allows everyone to focus their strengths exactly where they are needed in order to advance the company’s goals.
With their different goals and tasks, all employees contribute to the big picture and are thereby instrumental in achieving the company’s goals. These goals and tasks can be directly attributed to the business strategy and make a decisive contribution to the strategic success of the company.
In agile companies, the line has less information about employees. That is why it is important that 360-degree feedback is sought and given on an ongoing basis – beyond hierarchical or departmental boundaries.