I sent this tweet out this morning - the article it refers to is good, it packages up nicely the three key factors in building organisational agility. The capacity for organisations to be agile today is a requirement so that people in those organisations can develop a stance towards the future that is proactive, not reactive. Organisational agility allows people to think beyond the status quo which, as we are all experiencing, seems to be crumbling before our eyes.

My issue with this article is that it is descriptive, and yes, it couldn't be much more than that in a short report, and PWC doesn't want to give too much away on their website - all quite understandable. There are hints on the PWC site about what is the critical element is building an organisation's capacity for agility though - its people and the ability for them to be able to deal with disruption to business-as usual.  This is framed in terms of organisational alignment which is all about changing the way things are done, leadership and culture.

I have no problem with this model if you take it by itself, and it's nice to see that scanning and moving beyond the status quo to position for the future has finally hit the minds of some of our biggest companies - particularly the need to do environmental scanning on a regular basis. The ability to see weak signals of change is the fundamental requirement for good strategic thinking.

Becoming organisationally agile and taking a proactive stance towards the future will mean people have to change the way they think and let go of assumptions about how they work now. The way in which this model is implemented in an organisation will be critical in its success, and that implementation will require more than rhetoric about alignment, leadership and culture. It will need overt and strong processes that:

  • involve staff in authentic ways in scanning the horizon and helping to interpret what they are finding to feed into strategy development,
  • eliminate the stifling, risk averse bureaucracies that still constrain how things are done in the majority of organisations today, and
  • help people challenge their assumptions about what matters, about how they work, and about how they approach the future.

It is the last point that is most important. I work mainly in higher education, and my work with universities tells me that they are grappling with all these issues now as their comfortable environment begins to shatter around them. They are building new strategies, new technology and new structures, all of which are needed. For most staff however, the impact of the this change hasn't really sunk in - I hear comments like 'tell me where I'll be sitting and what job I'll be doing and I'm happy' more often than I want to accept. They continue to work from their current assumptions and as a result, don't see the degree of change now facing them.
A good strategic model and opportunities to participate in scanning will not help people let go of their assumptions about how they work and how they face the future. This letting go requires organisations to build a strategic foresight capacity to help people move beyond status quo thinking. Only when future thinking becomes the norm will organisations be truly agile. Give me a call or send me an email if you want to chat about future thinking and organisational agility can become a reality for your organisation.

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