The high rate of change which has led to the new S curve and has triggered the shift in focus from competitive positioning to core competencies, and now core competencies to organisational capabilities, is having one further impact on the nature of competitive strategy.
This additional change is to the choice of organisational capabilities itself and it is to add the capability of agility to the small number of other capabilities that a business might want to use. Of course, not all businesses will want or need an agility capability, but most will. And in a sense, it’s not really a capability at all but is simply an ability to develop new capabilities, or an approach to double loop learning – i.e its main benefit is the impact it has on other capabilities, rather than its direct contribution to the business.
There are also other ways to develop agility than to have capability in this. It can be about more traditional individual capabilities (abilities in individual employees), leadership behaviours or business processes. However, developing an organisational capability in agility is probably the easiest way to achieve a more agile business.
I think some recent research from I4CP reinforces this point. They suggest that agility is largely dependent on a culture which is strongly based on the organisation’s values, and that the most beneficial values are innovation, transparency, creativity, diversity and collaboration, i.e, once again, success is about people and culture.
I particularly like Ed Lawler’s suggestions around developing an agility capability in his book ‘Built to Change’ including simple things like using role profiles rather than job descriptions – which can have a profound effect on the way an organisation runs. There were also some decent ideas in the recent hackathon into HR and adaptability which was run by the CIPD and Gary Hamel’s MIX.