Flexibility is the capacity of a business to adjust internal processes and adapt to unexpected changes. This may include changes such as refining the company’s value proposition, staying on top of latest technological changes, and ensuring you have top talent that has the skill sets to handle latest challenges.
It is said that “a company’s overarching objective should be to maximize flexibility and control so that it can pursue different options as it learns more or as its circumstances change.” Since the world, especially the technology world, changes constantly, companies can rarely afford to not be flexible. Business flexibility is a mixture of sufficient organizational flexibility, which includes processes and operational systems, and skills flexibility, ability of managers and employees to implement and sustain the change.
Of course, attaining flexibility is no easy task. In a study the major 7 features of a flexible business included:
- ability to adjust core concept,
- analyzing competition,
- listening to customers
- understanding employees,
- gaining more flexibility from less assets,
- working with flexible systems and processes,
- having fewer people make decisions.
Not surprisingly, the smaller the business, the more flexible they tend to be, since their processes are not as rigid, their teams are smaller and their decision making is often less complicated. Being responsive to technological changes, however, is not reserved only for small companies. Many corporations have successfully implemented flexible processes, following the same 7 steps. Companies like Nordstrom have been able to adapt latest technologies like omni-channel systems with great success; other companies search for ways to reduce overhead, get the right talent quickly, stay on top of latest trends and as a result are able to expand their operations.
At the core of flexible business is the ability of its leaders to recognize what changes are needed, figure out how to implement them, and then execute them quickly. The critical task for leaders is to listen to what the customers say, but also acknowledge the skill sets of your employees – and improve them if necessary.
In the face of change, many businesses make internal changes, for example smaller businesses can easily change their value proposition. Others tap into new markets with new captive centers or create new departments and build new teams. Other companies don’t have resources to create new departments, or they prefer to remain flexible with fewer assets holding them down. These companies often rely on third-party providers to get access to new resources, provide necessary skill flexibility (which has also been found to quickly attain cost-efficiency), and ultimately attain bigger profits. Relying on third-party providers is often the quickest way to adapt to changing environments and achieve flexibility.
But, flexibility is not a one-time change; rather it is an embedded process and a specific mindset. It is a necessary requirement, especially with constantly changing technology affecting every aspect of business. It can be achieved with strong leadership, efficient processes, and skill sets that match latest market trends.
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