Only Those Institutions that Can Adapt And Respond Quickly To Shifts In Consumer Preferences Are Likely To Survive

The speed of technological change has become extraordinary, as has its ability to transform our lives. Corporations have likewise been buffeted, with new companies like Nokia emerging as market leaders while former market leaders that responded too slowly to new competition and changes in consumer preferences disappeared.

The key for company survival in changing times is speed and agility. This article points out that people are the ultimate means by which companies leverage themselves into becoming faster and more agile, but notes that only a minority of companies have their human relations leaders playing a role in this effort. The result, they report, is much wasted effort. Speed without clarity simply results in dumb decisions made faster, while agility without focus results in companies straying from their core business and mission.

Unfortunately, speed and agility can’t be bought or dictated. To achieve the right tension between agility and speed, to understand the subtleties of rhythm and pace, to navigate in a faster and more uncertain world all require a talented workforce and well-founded plans and procedures. The author notes that fast and agile companies seem to share “five basic characteristics which overlap, interact, and create a momentum that’s hard to beat”:

  1. Clear purpose
  2. Engaging climate
  3. Small unit accountability
  4. Outside-In focus
  5. Collective will

The article discusses each of these characteristics in detail and provides examples of companies that achieve success in each. It then provides “a six-step process that can literally get a company moving in the right direction in 60 days or less.” The author concludes by warning that once an organization is fast and agile it faces a formidable task to avoid complacency. After all, Bill Gates asserts that Microsoft is never more than two years from going out of business.

Source: Robert Gandossy, Journal of Business Strategy; January-February, 2003

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