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Characteristic # 14—Structural Fluidity

Organizational structure has a big bearing on a company’s ability to be flexible, responsive, and maneuverable. Structure covers the full gambit of how a business initiates, performs, and finishes its work. The structure of an organization is the guiding framework that drives performance. Structure specifically shapes the links between people and operations and communication channels. It affects the vision, enables or hinders flexibility and agility, and influences responsiveness. Rigid organizing structures—without structural fluidity—choke agile thinking and behavior (Chap. 7).

The agile enterprise tends to be flat, boundary-less, customer-focused, and structured around teams, not functions. These features support structural fluidity.

Characteristic # 15—Development of a Learning Organization

According to Abe Harraf and his colleagues, the final characteristic in their agility framework—development of a learning organization—is the culmination of the other characteristics. A learning organization, first conceptualized by Peter Senge over 25 years ago, inspires its members to be in a continual state of growth and learning. Perpetual development of the workforce thwarts organizational stagnation and is supposed to turbo charge performance.

Agility and learning are inseparable—a point I expand upon in the next chapter. The learning organization is an agile organization and vice versa. Learning and continuous human capacity improvement fuels the attributes of openness and responsiveness. Every aspect of the worksetting is potentially an opportunity to learn from and improve upon.

These 15 characteristics of organizational agility aren’t new. But together they provide a framework for defining the agile enterprise. The application of these characteristics varies from organization to organization. However, together they provide an understanding of what is necessary to be agile. What’s more, they provide managers with a useful roadmap.

In the next chapter—the final chapter in Part I—I introduce my Organizational Agility model. The seven dimensions of agility are the basis for evaluating organizational performance. As I mentioned at the beginning of this chapter, there is some overlap between the 15 characteristics discussed here and the seven dimensions of agility covered in the next chapter. But to be clear, the model I’m about to describe is a new model for evaluating organizational performance, based on seven dimensions. I hope it adds some value to the discussion we’ve had in Chap. 1 on the evolution of thought around assessing organizational performance.

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