The more I think about it, the more I have come to realise the importance of agility in the workplace. Agile here means to be able to move quickly and easily according to the needs of the situation. This is especially crucial for organisations during current times. There is a brilliant Chinese proverb that says that the wise adapt themselves to circumstances, as water molds itself to the pitcher. This proverb cannot be more accurate during current times. It is especially true for the managers and leaders of an organisation.
A study conducted in 2008 by the Economist Intelligence Unit, entitled Growing Global Executive Talent identified the top three leadership qualities as being the ability to motivate staff, the ability to work well across culture and the ability to facilitate change. Nowhere in that top three does it mention technical expertise or holding on to traditional methods or mentality.
In a nutshell, this means that the leaders of a company nowadays must be willing to step out of their comfort zone and adapt and adopt the necessary changes to take the company to the next level. That ability to be agile will determine the success or failure of an organisation.
In a book written by Laurence Gonzales entitled “Everyday Survival: Why Smart People do Stupid Things”, the author highlights the dumb mistakes we make when we work from a “mental script” that does not match the requirements of the real world situation. Essentially, we have trained ourselves to respond a certain way when faced with a problem or situation. For example, when someone throws something at us, we duck as opposed to trying to catch it. Through years of practise, this training becomes second nature to us and we do it unconsciously.
The same concept can be applied to a company. Through years of practising the same methods or ways of dealing with a situation at work, we have perfected that skill and we refuse to change it because it had worked so well in the past and that is added to the fact that most people are not comfortable with change as it requires us to move out of our comfort zone.
However, it has already been established that the old ways are no longer the most suitable ways to run or organise a company. The world is moving and we need to move along with it or risk being stuck in a time warp. To ensure agility in the workplace, institutions need to be willing to make changes such as:-
When an idea is proposed, as the leaders of the company, we instinctively want to shoot it down or counter the idea because that is not how it was done in the past. But before you shoot any idea down, stop and consider this: are you following a pre-set mental script, or are you countering the idea because you have already weighed the pros and cons of it from every possible and practical angle? No doubt it will be difficult, but you have to make a conscious effort to work towards leadership agility.
An important factor to consider in agility is the ability to distinguish between facts and conjecture. Conjecture basically boils down to assumption without any proof or facts attached to it. It is a general assumption based on past experiences with the company. Granted, the past does teach us to deal with the future, but the problem here is that the future is changing and we need to change along with it.
The time has come to consider other alternative possibilities when a situation or problem presents itself. You’d be surprised at how sometimes the best ideas come from the young minds of the company. This is because they don’t see the world the way everyone else sees it and that’s what makes their ideas unique. Fusing new and old ideas will definitely generate a more creative and conducive work environment that has never been achieved by the organisation in its former days. This fusion not only generates greater ideas for the company but it also generates a feeling of being wanted among the employees in the company which translates to loyalty. The most obvious advantage to that is the low turn-over rate among the employees in an organisation.
Therefore, after taking everything into consideration, it is quite clear that agility is the key into the future. Leaders and managers need to start moving out of their comfort zones and start moving with the times to ensure the growth and sustainability of their organisation. Change is a terrifying factor but change is an inevitable and undeniable factor. The first step is always the hardest. Once you have achieved that, anything is possible.
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