Defining Organizational Agility

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting S.A., a Roatan, Honduras-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at andy.jordan@roffensian.com. Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

I was talking to a customer recently about the concept of organizational agility and how her company might be able to better embrace the concept. She asked me a perfectly reasonable question: “What does organizational agility mean to you?”

I explained that it was creating an environment where the company could react effectively and efficiently to the emerging threats and opportunities it was exposed to, while still remaining focused on achieving its long-term goals. I acknowledged that was a slightly simplistic perspective, but I felt it was a good answer for what she was looking for. And then she said, “Okay, but what does that really mean in the real world?”

I had been guilty of providing her with the generic, canned answer that serves to provide a nice sound-bite—but doesn’t really explain the concept very well. We went on to have a great discussion in more depth. But as ProjectManagement.com begins its month-long exploration of organizational agility, it struck me that defining the concept in real world terms would be a good place to start my articles. (I’m going to build on this through the month, so there will be three related articles that follow and develop these ideas.)

Understanding the need
To understand the concept, we have to start by understanding why it’s necessary. If an organization existed in isolation …

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