In this market, changes in customer needs and demand levels are as complex as they are rapid. Most organisations’ strategy, sales, marketing and commercial functions weren’t built to move at such a fast pace. It was therefore telling to read a recent FT study of the top 100 companies ‘Prospering in the Pandemic’. Many are recent start-ups, pure-play eCommerce firms, or SaaS businesses. These organisations aren’t just digital natives or cloud natives, they’re agility natives. Not only because of their culture, but also because of how they’ve organised themselves, and how they respond rapidly to market changes. It’s no coincidence that these businesses are thriving. They’re designed to adapt and to overcome – like the Marines or the Borg. Agility is in their DNA.
For us at Baringa, ‘organising for growth’ is all about enabling companies to achieve sustainable growth and maximise sales amid rapidly evolving markets. We’ve identified five key shifts that organisations need to make:
- A different mindset and ways of working
The need for agility in customer acquisition has never been greater. Strategies, tactics and responses that worked last week may not work this week. Organisations should enable and empower the people closest to customers to frequently capture the market’s heartbeat, and adapt their products and services to meet fresh customer demands. This shift requires three key ingredients:
- collaboration and co-creation with customers
- agile ways of working
- an iterative and experimental ‘fail fast & safe and learn fast’ approach.
- Multidisciplinary teams organised around value
Traditional siloed business functions create friction and slow down value delivery. So, what’s the secret to ensuring your business won’t lose market share to challengers and disrupters? It’s creating mini start-ups within your organisation that are nimble enough to compete effectively against other market participants. These multidisciplinary teams are able to understand the market and deliver value to customers at pace with minimal dependency on others. Critically, they can pinpoint and structure themselves around the end-outcome that matters to customers. Companies need this capability to have any hopes of growth in this tough market.
Right now, the top priority is revenue generation. Approaches can range from rapidly deploying (and then quickly re-deploying) multi-skilled teams around a specific customer or opportunity, to re-aligning the organisation around customer and commercial outcomes. For instance, some companies create consolidated Revenue Operations teams, which combine sales, marketing and service.
- Agile governance and decision-making
Creating mini start-ups in your organisation might sound like a recipe for chaos. What if they end up pulling the business in different directions? To avoid this scenario, your organisation must ensure everyone is aligned on revenue and growth targets. But at the same time, the mini start-ups need a healthy degree of freedom and autonomy.
Before the pandemic, governance often led to bureaucratic overhead, baking in inertia and latency instead of speed and decisiveness. When Covid hit, companies streamlined decision-making but at the same time also centralised it. That’s not the right approach. True organisational agility means the direction and priorities (the ‘why’ and the ‘what’) are set at leadership level, and decisions about the ‘how’ are decentralised.
Transparency around outcomes is crucial. The Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) method is a popular way to measure and govern the organisation and to hold multidisciplinary teams accountable for customer outcomes, revenue and market share. It replaces traditional milestone-based governance (which tracks the completion of certain tasks, rather than project success) with transparent, real-time information focused on outcomes.
- Leadership, culture and vision
When crisis strikes, there’s a huge temptation to adopt a traditional ‘command’ style of leadership. Although this might make sense while you’re in immediate response mode, retaining this approach risks inhibiting organisational agility and hampering growth. After all, executives often have limited visibility of what’s happening on the ground.
Leaders that create the conditions for their people to adapt and overcome through collaboration, empowerment and supportive structures will win both customers’ business as well as employees’ hearts and minds. The critical role of leadership in ‘organising for growth’ is to:
- set a clear direction and strategy
- collaborate and ruthlessly prioritise the initiatives that will deliver the greatest value to the organisation, rather than their own business function
- empower and enable their teams to deliver value to customers, by removing potential obstacles but otherwise staying out of day-to-day operations.
- Data, technology and tooling
Data, technology and tooling are critical enablers for agility. (However, that doesn’t mean companies without them should put off starting the journey towards ‘organising for growth’.) Real-time data and effective technology can help your organisation get closer to customers and create new sales opportunities. They also provide transparency of outcomes, accelerate innovation and underpin agile ways of working. To deliver the best results, the technology itself must also be nimble: cloud-based, modular and delivered in an agile manner.
It’s vital to look beyond the current market challenges, and recognise that volatility will undoubtedly create fresh opportunities. Seizing them will require organisational agility. It’s an extremely powerful tool that can help businesses achieve the seemingly impossible. For instance, back in 2019, who would have believed that companies could move thousands of people to virtual working in matter of weeks?
Organisations have the power to create a positive legacy from Covid, by building commercial functions that are more responsive, more productive, more profitable and better places to work. In the turbulent post-pandemic market, this is critical to organisations’ ability to survive – let alone thrive and grow.