Within the context of organizational agility, the long term, strategic aspects often dominate. Small wonder: this is sexy, involves great transformational thought and aspirations. Building models and using imagination is understandably more attractive than the gritty little details of operational daily reality. Nevertheless, no big, bold concept has any chance of survival, without well-done operational agility. There are three reasons for this.
First: structural changes, innovations and other strategic actions all require a fair amount of time for implementation. Operational agility, the incremental stuff, gains time for deeper changes to evolve.
Second is trust from all stakeholders. Unless the change leaders provide evidence of their transformational commitment and ability to implement strictly, the customers, investors and employees are not likely to fully engage.
Third is the skills and knowledge. Operational agility initiatives often provide a critical mass of insights, experiences which more strategic transformation phases need.
So what is operational agility? My practical definition is very simple: accelerated business process improvement, preferably with direct client impact. This is not simply automation or technology projects implemented! True, this is its core, providing the infrastructure, but not the thing itself. In an analogy, no one says the transportation network equals trade or a monetary system equals commerce. Putting technology in place quickly and in focus is essential, but insufficient if clients do not see their needs understood faster, solutions provided better and user value demonstrated consistently. Continuing the analogy, it is the proper use of the networks, infrastructure that matters, and that could be accelerated without much strategy or business model change.
I can see three levels of operational agility, beyond technology platforms:
In summary, operational agility is essential – creating the foundations for bigger, braver changes. To speed up operations, technology must underpin business processes, starting with the ones facing the client and then going deeper. There is wide agreement that communications networks are the cornerstone of any modern organization, from the military, through governments, NGOs and businesses. This blog argues that we pay inadequate attention to the networks of people and groups. If we map, enhance and design those networks with the same professionalism as we do IT networks, we could remove a great deal of slowdown factors at little cost. What better proposition to boost operational agility than this is there?
We propose that in parallel with your technology investment, invest in understanding hidden networks and then unlock potential for greater speed, resource savings and better employee and client experience.