In today’s world, where change seems to happen in the time it takes to click a mouse or tap a smartphone, newer, agile companies are beating long-standing industry players at their own game. The taxi industry, cable television, and even banking have all been forced to reassess traditional ways of doing business thanks to nimble startups that don’t operate within antiquated systems.
The paradigm that the old and big lead the small and new no longer follows; now it is bigger, old-guard companies who can learn about strategy from small, flexible companies. Agile companies are successful because they have adaptability written into their DNA. Their nimble approach makes them better at implementing organizational changes quickly, whereas dated procedures and silos at large companies make reorgs and strategy changes slow and more difficult to implement. That doesn’t mean big companies are too large to play ball with lean newbies. It just means that they may need to reconsider their act.
A number of factors allow small companies to move quickly and build momentum. They stay agile enough that ideas and implementation happen at the same time. That way, the strategic implementation is directly informed by its design—the right hand knows exactly what the left is doing. In contrast, by the time a strategy is fully implemented at a very large, traditional company, the competitive landscape may have already changed, and there may be confusion around the original intention of the strategy. That phenomenon can also be explained by VUCA—the idea that certain situations in today’s global economy will produce volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.
Not embracing VUCA as part of a company’s DNA causes a backlog and reduces the ability to compete. Agile companies, on the other hand, see strategy as a single continuous process, informed by consumer demand, that can be created, implemented, and modified with speed and ease.
I’ve been fortunate to work in many different environments. I have worked at organizations big and small, for myself and for others, and in the public and private sector. On top of that, I am Brazilian—crises and challenges are part of my DNA. Now, in my role at Brightline, I’m focused on creating a movement that aims to help people from different sectors work together to align their strategy design and implementation.
At Brightline we provide insights, research, and principles that encourage organizations to reduce the gap between the development and delivery of any change initiative. And we do that for a simple reason: these gaps can have deep cost and waste implications. One way we do this is with our ten guiding principles, which aim to close that gap and which serve as simple and direct guides for organizations that wish to employ the nimble and agile strategy required in today’s business environment.
To give you an idea of their efficacy, our principles have been downloaded more than 10,000 times in eleven languages, proving that there’s a large appetite for strategic advice across a wide range of organizations.
Let’s take, for example, our first principle: Acknowledge that strategy delivery is just as important as strategy design. By internalizing this, organizations are able to view strategy as a holistic organism, something towards which the entire company works. Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that thinking about new ideas is very different from actually transforming these ideas into reality. This principle may sound simple, but adopting it can have an enormous impact on the success of a strategic initiative.
This also ties to our second principle: Accept that you’re accountable for delivering the strategy you designed. When everyone is accountable, the company mission becomes integral to everyone’s work. This is particularly true for fledgling start-ups—when companies are small enough that each and every hand on deck counts. Ensuring that the entire organization is working toward the same goal helps everyone stay aligned, motivated, responsible, and effective.
These principles are more than just hypothetical directives, though. More and more we see this playing out in nimble digital companies. Look at the strategic initiatives implemented at Netflix that enabled it to recently surpass huge traditional media companies like Disney, Fox, TimeWarner, CBS, and Viacom in market value. Though significantly smaller and younger, Netflix was able to more closely respond to market desires with its content and UI.
The big, traditional industry players should learn from the relative digital newbies. No longer complacent doing things the old way, they must take a page from the book of startups and smaller companies to stay agile and survive. After all, we live in a radically new world—companies must evolve for it if they wish to survive in it. Past success is not necessarily indicative of future results. The ability to adapt and reinvent is.
This is the difference between those who merely survive and those who make a lasting impact on the world.