Responding to every wind of economic change can breed chaos within your company—and the larger market
One of the pandemic’s primary business lessons was around agility—namely, gaining more of it.
For most business leaders, the pandemic was like steering right into an iceberg. No one had the ability to miss it, given the meager warning time and the way our businesses (like ships) were built.
But that’s changed. And business leaders vowed to invest in digital and become more nimble.
When West Monroe polled C-suite executives this spring, 57% said their ability to respond to new market forces had improved since the pandemic. Greater agility is exactly what businesses should be after in this fast-moving, digital economy. (For what it’s worth, I count West Monroe in that group.)
However, just because you have greater agility doesn’t mean you should exercise it at every turn.
Company leaders who respond to every twist and turn in the market (every economic indicator release and every piece of customer and employee feedback) are missing the point of agility. Responsiveness is a tool to be wielded when necessary—not every time a change is detected.
As a professional services firm that works across several industries, we’re seeing clients and their competitors respond to new market forces, from rising inflation to the business-challenge-du-jour, in ways they were not able to pre-pandemic. With better data, faster decision-making, and new tech, they can pivot, but they’re pivoting a lot, and in some cases to the point of overreaction. This is causing new initiatives to be dropped, really solid long-term strategies to be tabled, and fundamental (and necessary) changes to their organizations to be abandoned—including digital operations, products, and services.
As an executive, I can spot three reasons why this is happening:
I am not saying business leaders should sit idly by while things change around them. As responsible executives, we absolutely need to track inflation rates, employment trends, customer feedback, our sales pipelines, and other indicators that matter to our businesses. We do this regularly at West Monroe. Sometimes, changes in those indicators should be met with decisive action, just not every single time.
Real damage can be done to a business and the market by altering priorities too often and whiplashing stakeholders. It’s like working for a moody boss: if you’re always unsure what they’re going to do next, you’re placed in a standstill afraid to act, which has the exact opposite effect of why you gained more business agility in the first place.
Here is the mindset I’ve adopted instead:
Agility is a powerful tool. Its power is one of the reasons everyone wanted more of it after the pandemic, just use the tool wisely.
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