5 Important Aspects To Keep In Mind For Organizational Agility

Although the need for being agile is not new, it has become a bigger focus in recent times when individuals and businesses are figuring out the role of human capital in a future that is driven by smart machines and intelligent data.

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“Keep your mind open to change all the time. It is only by examining and re-examining your opinions and ideas that you can progress.”  
—Dale Carnegie


It’s often believed that a company’s vintage is inversely related to its dynamism. But agility has no longer remained a choice today. Organizations, small and large, have to reinvent themselves constantly. With the pace of change that we are experiencing, it’s not a surprise that organizational agility has become a buzzword today.

Although the need for being agile is not new, it has come into bigger focus in recent times, when individuals and businesses are figuring out the role of human capital in a future that is driven by smart machines and intelligent data.

What does agility even mean? It is a fluid idea that depends upon the nature of the organization and the challenges that it faces. It is a set of actions that an entity undertakes to renew and change quickly to adapt continuously. 

The Dale Carnegie Whitepaper on Organizational Agility defines agility as the ability to gather and act on information, make decisions quickly and implement change to meet rapidly evolving requirements of customers and the business environment.

What It Takes

We are living in times when we have extensive data that can help to make decisions. But no amount of data will help a company become agile if there’s no genuine desire to listen to what the data says. Forward-looking organizations are those that are invested in listening and leveraging data to make smart decisions, even if they are hard ones.

It takes the right combination of resilience, social intelligence and capacity for action, aligned with a clear organizational purpose, to create a strong foundation for agility.

An unrelenting commitment by the leadership to steer the workforce towards agility by ingraining it in every narrative, conversation and action is a prerequisite for any future-focused organization.

Companies and individuals who are equipped with the skills, tools and processes are able to not just survive but even thrive on change and use it as a real competitive advantage.

Interestingly, although agility requires nimbleness and speed, it also requires companies to build a solid foundation that is stable in the face of change. An organization that reaches a certain scale and size cannot be agile without being anchored on a trustworthy framework and an unwavering bigger goal.

Strong Customer Focus

A Dale Carnegie research confirmed the importance of having a strong customer focus as the true north in times of uncertainty. The research identified a subset of particularly successful companies and examined how their attitudes and actions differed from the rest. One of the ways in which senior leaders at these winning organizations thought differently from those in other companies was their strong emphasis on the customer.

A customer-centred purpose is the compass that allows employees to continue to navigate toward the ultimate objective, even as the path there takes unexpected turns.

A customer-centric approach also gives leaders the opportunity to involve the employees by empowering them to suggest and advocate changes that will make the organization more responsive in providing value for the customers. In a way, it also helps these employees see the value they add in the organization’s growth.

A commitment to agility requires an acceptance of a certain level of risk. For speedy decision making, it is crucial for organizations to empower the employees to make the changes that are required towards achieving the ultimate goal, without fully vetting every last option.

And although not every decision will prove out to be right, agile organizations must lead with a positive outlook and confidence that comes from a unified and singular vision that is the compass that guides all. This resilience is what forms the bedrock of agility. It is driven by the confidence in employees that it is okay to fail and an environment that is fosters positivity and innovation.

Social Intelligence

In the face of artificial intelligence, the term social intelligence has slowly been gaining spotlight as the differentiator that humans need to become relevant. Social intelligence is critical for agility, as it underpins several key organizational competencies such as effective collaboration, creative intelligence and change management. People with strong social intelligence can connect with others, build trusting relationships and navigate complex social environments. Research suggests that people with strong social intelligence also contribute more to creative performance.

Dale Carnegie’s survey asked respondents which skills they feel will be needed to stay competitive as artificial intelligence and automation become more widespread in the workplace. More than 7 in 10 chose soft skills over hard skills (73 per cent vs. 27 per cent).

Agile organizations view customers and employees as integral to the value creation process; they’re the people who have ideas that can help innovate to improve products and experiences. They need tools and processes that help them capture quality data and facilitate interactions that can lead to co-creation of value and the removal of barriers to productivity and innovation. 

Whether a firm’s data collection process is technologically sophisticated or not is less important than their asking the right questions, facilitating meaningful interactions with employees and customers, and analyzing feedback and data promptly to turn it into insights that can be acted upon.

The journey of being agile will require organizations to shake up top-down structures that encourage siloes and design structures that support a collaborative environment. It will force organizations to build a culture that can make up a solid foundation that can in turn become a springboard to people-driven success.

Agile organizations free people to experiment, adapt and innovate. As the pace of change accelerates and AI gains momentum, these imperatives have become higher profile today, but in reality, they’ve always been part of the attributes that put people and companies ahead.