The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Business

January 30, 2013

Agility vital for modern workers, employers

I’ve read about how important it is to be agile in today’s workplace.

So I tried typing that first sentence with my toes while balancing on one arm atop a cubicle wall. I fell twice and sprained my ankle.

Fortunately, that’s not the kind of agility that matters.

Being agile in the working world means being adaptable, managing change, trying to keep pace with technology and consumers’ ever-evolving needs and desires.

This is not something most American companies - and many employees, for that matter - do well. We tend to get stuck in our ways, locked in the classic conversation:

“Why do we do things this way?“

“Because that’s the way we’ve always done them.“

A new survey by the workforce research firm I4CP, or the Institute for Corporate Productivity, found that companies consider the top two “critical issues for 2013“ to be “managing/coping with change“ and “managing organizational change.“ And yet the study found that only 35 percent of the best-performing organizations are effective at managing change.

“When it comes to the leadership properties in a lot of companies, they remain status quo,“ said Kevin Martin, chief research and marketing officer at I4CP. “You have to have agile leaders. The mantra should be, ’We need to change internally as fast or faster than the market is changing externally.’ “

In many companies, implementing change is like trying to turn around an aircraft carrier. Projects often become monthslong endeavors where team members cannot make decisions without clearance from multiple rungs of management.

The argument here is that companies should function more like youthful gymnasts than arthritic octogenarians. Steve Denning, author of “The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management,“ said businesses that can’t continually innovate have short life expectancies.

He gave me several principles for a company to become more agile.

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