Agility counts for little without collaboration

The hot property of business strategy at the moment is agility. Being agile is the new IT! Agile performance is a response to a range of disruptive factors that every business faces. The so called fourth Industrial Revolution is real. How visible this is to everybody is another matter altogether. Up to this point the standard mantra of good business strategy included protection of the core business. Now, disruption dictates that an agile enterprise needs to be more flexible. Core businesses can be changed completely. This in itself is not peculiar to the current era we are going through; but the scale of such attitudinal change is.

agileThat is where a collaboration strategy comes in more than handy. Once we get past the proverbial view of collaboration as a nice, polite getting along and working together sort of thing, we enter into the intricate complexity of the collaboration strategy. Collaboration at its best is a fine balance between shared and self-interest. A balance between fierce competition and devout co-operation: full of risk, often with expensive failures and yet superbly beneficial when executed right. With that in mind I suggest that collaboration is indispensable to an agile, and therefore resilient, enterprise.

Agility implies and in some circumstances is explicitly about the capacity of a system to adapt rapidly to a disruptive force. Imagining how that can be executed is not overly difficult when compared to actual execution. Imagination is one thing, however the resources required for such action are another. Thus the need for a detailed understanding of the entire system. An average size business then needs to look at its components in a new light: through the prism of disrupting force.

It is then that collaboration starts to emerge as a vital building block of a strategically envisioned agility. It should not come as a surprise when an organisation as a business entity starts to look different than what we normally see on a day to day basis. Worth remembering is that the modern organisation is a relatively new concept. When projected across human history we may realise that humans have spent most of their time in one form of organisation of another.

The second important thing today can be gleaned from the built environment; particularly the city. The largest structures are business towers. A few centuries ago they were churches. The shift is telling. The locus of organisational narrative is found in the workplace. That is why every business needs to be aware of the meaning of workplace in a new light. For most people it suggests a place beyond a money-making locality. It in fact may mean much more by replacing or adding a different meaning to their entire life, not just work and career.

That is how collaboration becomes an integral part of an agile strategy. It paves the way for different parts of the organisation, irrespective of the nature of a business or a disruptive threat it is likely to face, to collaborate in executing a series of actions that collectively translate into agility. But unlike traditional risk management, which tends to be a prescriptive and top-down process that focuses on resisting disruption and preserving as much of the system as possible, collaboration opens an opportunity for innovative management of disruption. A collaborative approach to agility is about an entrepreneurial embrace of disruption which in most cases also offers a new value opportunity for a business that is prepared for it. Agility then is about growth opportunity. To get to that point a business needs to grasp the power, even when latent, of collaboration.

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