Agility Is Not An Option

Maddie and I delivered an internal webinar on When Millennials Take Over to a very large, global organization last week. The organizers read the book in order to develop a set of interview questions that were integrated into the presentation, and one of them was:

How can such a large company like [this organization] be agile?

I know it's word-smithing, but I had to suggest a change to the wording of the question. It's not "how can" you be agile, but it is "how will" you be agile. Large companies are not ever going to be as agile as small ones, and that may not be too much of a problem, but everyone will need to be more agile than they are today.

Agility is not optional, folks. And I used to advocate for agility as a generically desirable trait, but I've shifted since writing When Millennials Take Over. In today's world and today's economy, the digital mindset (that we write about in the book) requires an intense and disciplined focus on the user, the customer, and even the employee--even though these groups are diverse and even quite fickle. There is no way you can meet today's standards for customer-centricity without being agile.

So large companies need to find ways to start acting smaller. Give certain teams more flexibility to innovate or experiment. Create pockets of innovation and then allow them to connect into a network. Again, large companies have the advantage of scale, and they won't necessarily give up that advantage entirely, so they may sacrifice some on the agility score, but start building the capacity today, because I'm not convinced that the advantages of scale are going to maintain their value over time.

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