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How Agile is Your Company?

by M. Dana Baldwin, Senior Consultant 

Strategic Planning Expert

Great Companies develop Strategic Plans which incorporate agility in execution.  What is generally meant by being agile? 

Most companies intend to carry out their goal of being agile by becoming more responsive, more sensitive to meeting their customers’ needs and preferences and doing all of this more rapidly. 

How does a company become more agile?  Much of the process of becoming agile is more easily said than done.  In order to be more agile, the culture within the company has to change.  Control must be ceded down further into the organization.  This means that senior managers must do a number of things which will lessen their direct control over what is happening day to day, communicate much better and at deeper levels within the company, and change the way in which their subordinates operate. 

Many companies dictate exactly what an individual may do, and may not do, in the performance of their daily jobs.  In order to become more agile, and to become more effective at being agile, the whole approach must shift.  The subordinates must have a clear understanding of what is wanted in terms of performance and actions in order to carry out the mission of the company.  This means that their instructions must evolve from “you will do this task, this way” to “this is the result we want from you, and you have the freedom and the responsibility to act within these parameters to accomplish your job.”  

To do this effectively, the senior managers must develop effective communications with each individual, must develop sufficient trust in the capabilities and training of each individual – that each one knows and understands what the overall goals and strategies are for the company, and how each of their actions may have an impact on the ultimate results, including the overall satisfaction of the individual customer. 

Agile companies tend to listen well to their customers.  When there is good input from customers that may affect the course and direction of the company, each person is encouraged to pass along this information to the higher-ups in order to take advantage of the broader insight offered by the customers.  To do this, everyone needs to know the strategic direction of the company, and how their actions may influence the results. 

In the long run, the company must develop and maintain a high level of trust, both from manager to subordinate, and from subordinate to manager.  To effect this, there must be good communication each way in the relationships, so that the unusual situation may be isolated and dealt with at the proper level, but also, and more importantly, so that the daily processes become almost routine, with their quick response, proper results and high levels of customer satisfaction the expected and achieved norm. 

To do this effectively, a company needs to have a clear, concise and actionable strategic plan.  It needs to communicate this plan throughout the company, so that every person perceives how his or her actions may impact the results for the company.  It means that managers must develop and use effective communications within the company.  And it means that customers will perceive the improved response times and results so their satisfaction with the company is higher.  This should result in improved relationships with customers, and within the company.  If your company needs effective, efficient guidance in developing your internal and external strategies, contact the Center for Simplified Strategic Planning Inc. at www.cssp.com 

M. Dana Baldwin is a Senior Consultant with Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc. and can be reached at baldwin@cssp.com.

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