As we discussed in previous posts, Organizational Agility is the convergence of two very different capacities – How responsive the organization is to trends, disruptions or opportunities in the operating environment, and the relative stability or lack thereof, for the stakeholders in the organization – employees, customers or investors/board members? Too slow to respond or too disruptive for stakeholders both undermine the viability and sap the vitality of the organization.

In the course of this series we continue to examine how this happens, what it looks like and what might be done about it. This week we begin with organizations that are highly responsive but are experienced by their key stakeholders like a bit of a roller-coaster – we call these “start-ups.”

organizational agility

Organizations in the “start-ups” quadrant share one key characteristic – they feed off possibilities.

One important note – these are not necessarily new organizations. They just happen to share an addiction to new ideas, new possibilities while having little time or patience in the building of systems and structures that steady the ship.

One tech company with whom we have worked, found itself caught between the promise of the innovation on which they were founded and the need to deliver “proof of concept” profitable results. The result was an inability to follow through on strategic initiatives, reassignment of underperforming executives to vague roles, diffused decision-making and sinking morale.

These also are organizations where we see “Founder’s Syndrome”

– the emerging sense the creator of a business realizes his or her inclinations are becoming problematic – precisely for the reasons we are discussing – the need for stability is utterly uninteresting to them (often manifested as a belief the “big pay day” will compensate for all shortcomings currently endured.)

This condition makes it hard to deliver consistently against customer demand, financial goals and sustainability. Some organizations just try to outrun (or out-grow) the need for stability. It becomes really expensive really quickly.

This is a particularly vexing state for senior leadership because it often reveals a gap between senior leadership intention and their impact.

You may want some outside help assessing or discussing this one. Not saying you have to hire a consultant but it is hard to face the gap internally. It’s like the emperor asking “How do you like my new clothes?”

Here are some questions you might ask yourself and your team:

How do we describe the extent to which the organization has changed since we were founded? Does it feel for the better or are we drifting?
What sorts of activities raise the energy level and which seem to lower it?
To what extent do our people (employees, customers, board members) attribute turbulence in our operations to external forces or internal shortcomings?
How has our view of what we are trying to accomplish – including how we organize, prioritize and execute – changed?
Good luck. We’ll be back next week with a look at the Organizationally Agile.