Some Simple Ideas to Manage Complexity

Managing change is a priority in organisations and companies requiring strategic agility. It also requires that companies and organisations both adhere to a clear vision and encourage a greater degree of worker participation whilst using ICTs to facilitate organisational and cultural change. 

How can we continue to be competitive in a setting of such constant economic disruptions and turbulence? Although the majority of companies acknowledge the enormity of the challenges being faced today, we are still unclear as to how to go about achieving enhanced competitiveness. Nonetheless, one thing is clear: however complicated it may be, leading and managing organisational change is critical at this time.

The question, then, is why is it so hard? The answer lies in the fact that we need to build future competitive advantages without affecting day-to-day operations. We are perennially pushed to generate a profit in the here and now, using the tools of processes, efficiency, hierarchies, and so forth; granted, they are familiar and comfortable tools to work with, albeit unadaptable to inevitable and necessary change. They are, in actuality, imperfect tools from the past with which we vainly attempt to resolve future problems.

Research in Management produces useful ideas while laying out some paths of action to follow. We can learn from start-ups and how they launch new businesses. Their innovative approaches are pointing the way towards modifying our people policies and motivating our professionals beyond mere economic remuneration. The foremost speaker on the topics of Leadership and Change, John Kotter, encourages us to develop dual organisations which balance classical management structures with strategic networking systems. Although extremely interesting, the truth is that due to company trajectory, history, current problems, and the people involved, it is in fact hard to implement these proposals in our organisations.

Based on my professional experience with 'real' companies and my vision of the organisation where I work, I wish to share four basic ideas which could serve as a good starting point to becoming more agile and to dealing with change more effectively:

Shorter and more flexible strategic cycles. Medium-term strategies over 5 to 6 years, with their highly detailed action plans, are of little use to companies today, and so we must develop strategic agility, which requires more frequent Strategic Thinking processes. Furthermore, specific emphasis must be made on strategic management adapted to unforeseen changes and events which are most certainly going to occur.

The importance of vision and values. It becomes ever-more urgent to keep a clear vision of what it is we aim to achieve and of the 'genetic' make-up of our company while undertaking Strategic Thinking processes. The better we can evaluate what we are, and what we wish to become, the better equipped we will be to appropriately react to unexpected challenges in a timely fashion as they come up at the various levels of our business activity.

Progressively more flat organisations with a greater degree of worker participation. It's not easy to 'change' an organisation. Designed for a Taylorist world, these hierarchies, no longer fit our current needs, and so greater autonomy and agility are required as we compete in the knowledge economy. Therefore, we must keep these propositions in mind while designing new jobs, updating our people policies, and hiring and promoting people.

ICTs as a force for internal change. Introducing ICT solutions in companies can encourage us to pose the right questions along with improving many of the internal processes in our companies. Aside from generating ROI by increasing productivity, ICTs can facilitate the organisational and cultural changes outlined above.

If you have made it thus far in the article, then you are truly concerned about either being made redundant, or by any disintermediation in the market. This concern could be a good starting point to opening a debate in your own organisation on the necessary change to be implemented and to questioning some of the ideas proposed above.

Read the article originally published in Estrategia Empresarial (Spanish)

Mikel Achotegui

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