Sunday, July 7, 2013

Creating the Agile Organization...


Two recent articles piqued my curiosity this past week. One was UNC Keenan-Flagler's ideas@work webizine Volume 5 and one article in particular titled "Developing Leaders in a VUCA Environment." The second was a research report from Saba titled "Carpe Diem: Seizing the Opportunity to Build an Agile Organization."

The UNC Keenan-Flagler piece discussed research from the Center for Creative Leadership indicating that today's Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous (VUCA) business environment requires leaders possess more complex and adaptive thinking skills to work effectively within this environment. It also indicated that for the most part leadership development areas like on-the-job training, mentoring and coaching haven't changed much over the years and therefore leaders are not developing quickly enough. I have written previously about today's leadership development tactics and how they haven't really changed as the business environment as changed. For me...this is critical in organizations. Their ability to be learning agile and adapt quickly will be the hallmark in the very near future of companies that successfully grow and those that become have nots in the world.

So the question is what is inhibiting organizations from becoming more agile and adaptable? Enter the Saba research report. 552 learning executives completed a survey to identify the most common strategies for creating agile organizations, as well as primary obstacles that L&D faces. Key findings from the study are the following

- Knowledge management and leadership development are the most common strategies for increasing organizational agility through learning.

- The obstacles to L&D helping to increase organizational agility are primarily culture issues (organizational silos, resistance to change, conflicting goals of different departments).

- Strategic enablers are more focused on connecting people to people and content through knowledge management and social technologies, while other organizations are catching up in the implementation of knowledge management systems.

- Strategic enablers focus on changing the learning culture through leadership development while cost centers focus on change management. The most dramatic differences between strategic enablers and cost centers involve practices related to learning culture.

While the Saba study doesn't give details on leadership development as one of the catalysts to enable an agile organization and culture, it does present a disconnect with the UNC Keenan-Flagler article on what leadership development is doing today, vice what it will need to do tomorrow. The article references three primary thrusts to enable this:

Thrust 1 - Hire Agile Leaders: In many organizations we hire because an individual appears to have the right set of experiences, customer experience or industry sector experience for example. Very few actually hire for a leader's agility or complex thinking skills because it is sometimes difficult to pull these experiences out from an interview. The article provides examples of the types of behavior based questions that should be asked.

Thrust 2 - Develop Existing Leaders to be Agile Leaders: While on-the-job training, mentoring, and coaching will continue to have their place in leadership development programs. New tools like scenario planning and simulations should play a larger role in developing agile and adaptable leadership skills, as well as innovation, collaboration, communication, openness to change and other high-order thinking skills.

Thrust 3 - Foster an Organizational Culture that Rewards VUCA Prime Behaviors and Retains Agile Employees: Here the Saba and UNC Keenan-Flagler article agree...the importance of the culture piece. It must be a systematic effort to create the right conditions for birth and growth in many respects of a different culture than many organizations are used to operation.

The future will belong to those that can create this new capability within their organizations. As these two articles point to...L&D and talent management have a huge role in creating and enabling this future...

Enable your future...

Cheers,
Keith

Dr. J. Keith Dunbar is a Global Talent Management Leader...Creator of Talent, Leadership Capability, and Culture Change...He can be found connecting and sharing knowledge on Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Twitter: JKeithDunbar
LinkedIn: J. Keith Dunbar
Google+: J. Keith Dunbar
Blog: DNA of Human Capital

The opinions or views expressed here are mine alone and do not represent the views of the SAIC.

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