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Characteristic # 5—A Tolerance for Ambiguity

Working with uncertainty is now the norm. With an escalation of volatility and unpredictability, there’s no longer the one orthodox method of responding to marketplace challenges. The agile enterprise flourishes in the face of ambiguity. A tolerance for ambiguity is the obligatory attitude for success. Established people management practices that stress clarity and certainty—such as the job description—are obsolete (Chap. 6). Being able to adapt is the new standard.

Tolerance for ambiguity is a different attribute to market responsiveness, although they work in tandem. While tolerance for ambiguity is the acceptance of the need to be adaptable, market responsiveness is the capacity to act in the face of ambiguity.

Characteristic # 6—Vision and Focus

The vision for an enterprise should have two primary purposes: to inspire employees and retain focus. A vision must be inspirational to some degree. To provide the very best customer service is hardly likely to get employees out of bed excited to come to work in the morning! The challenge of the vision should be “out of reach, but not unreachable”; in other words, it needs to test organizational members. A vision needs to inform; it responds to the question: Where are we heading? You’ve no doubt seen vision statements extend to one or two pages in length. A powerful vision can be captured in one simple sentence. The best vision statements are straightforward; they aren’t complicated. And finally, the vision should be a call-to-action; it should instigate a certain type of activity. Everything that happens (or doesn’t happen) in an enterprise ought to move the business closer—directly or indirectly—toward realizing the vision.8 Agility can then be expressed and justified on the basis of a clear focus and destination.

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