The rate of cultural and technological change in modern markets demands agility. I believe business leaders who rely on traditional management models will soon find that they cannot keep up with changing conditions and demands. The changing business landscape is becoming further complicated by events such as the current economic downturn. During previous periods of economic turmoil, market changes were not as rapid or pronounced; business leaders will need new strategies to ensure that their companies survive.
To build agile companies, business leaders need to create a stable but flexible business framework, focus on the people who make up their organization and understand their role in managing nimble teams.
An important benefit of agile business management is that it allows a business to rapidly adapt to changes in the environment. Thus, flexibility is key. But, although it might sound counterintuitive, a stable business framework is equally important. Stability keeps managers and their teams on the right path to achieve their shared goals and creates an atmosphere in which people have the confidence to innovate.
Three factors affect the stability of the business framework in an agile company: strategy, structure and processes. In this context, strategy refers to the bigger picture, the shared vision and purpose.
In terms of structure, a simple organizational structure with modular teams that have the autonomy to make decisions is usually the most effective. Autonomy and project ownership allow teams to allocate resources as needed to achieve project objectives.
Finally, core processes should be standardized but minimally specified to allow teams to adapt and improve the broader processes while they work to find the most effective and efficient ways of achieving their objectives.
People are at the core of any business. In the case of agile business management, the people involved in the business include employees and external stakeholders. Team members should have the freedom to grow and develop in order to avoid stagnation. The organizational culture should value self-improvement, critical thinking and open, honest communication and feedback. In other words, people should be encouraged to develop the tools they need to succeed and given a platform to share and test their ideas.
In agile business management, the business leader is a facilitator. In other words, your role is to ensure that your teams have the tools and resources they need to get the job done.
Taken together, these factors allow you to respond quickly and effectively to change without becoming ensnared in the day-to-day management of teams. This leaves you free to focus on strategy and business growth, which, along with agile business management and nimble teams, are key elements to surviving an economic downturn.
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