Agility: A New Book For The 'World Of Disruption'
- The current world is a world of accelerating disruption and those that world within it must adapt to this reality or become irrelevant.
- To adequately deal with change, however, one must create the right culture and this can only be done with leadership that builds the organization around trust, honesty, accountability and empowerment.
- Then, as Leo Tilman and General Charles Jacoby write in their new book "Agility," the company can go out and "treat change and adversity as opportunities" with great promise.
Today, I am reviewing the book "Agility” (Missionday publishers: 2019) written by Leo Tilman, advisor to major companies, institutional investors and governments around the world, and General Charles Jacoby (Ret.), former commander of NORAD and U.S. Northern Command.
The book is subtitled, “How to navigate the unknown and seize opportunity in a world of disruption.” And, that is the backdrop for the insights that Mr. Tilman and General Jacoby bring to us in their work.
I am particularly interested in their efforts because of my writing on the “new” Modern Corporation and the transformations taking place in the corporate world of today. All businesses are having to deal with an environment the authors describe as one of “accelerating disruption.”
The world of today is in constant disequilibrium and it is up to the leaders in this world to meet this challenge. And, Mr. Tilman and General Jacoby believe that these leaders must operate in this world with a "bias toward offense" and must “treat change and adversity as opportunities.” Furthermore, in this sense, the authors see the world as one with “great promise.”
But, these changes impact the “new” organizations just as they challenge the “legacy” corporations.
In terms of the “legacy” firms, there is the tendency to hang onto “static business models” that tie them to the past even though they are not fully aware of being “tied-up” like this. They become “sitting ducks.”
However, there is also the “new” corporation that has trouble identifying its business model.
For example, Tilman and Jacoby discuss the case of Alphabet (GOOG) (GOOGL), the parent company of Google. Alphabet, Inc. is a big tech company… right?
Well, the authors argue that the company, in 2016, generated approximately $90 billion in revenues, of which close to 90 percent came from advertising.
“From this perspective, Alphabet is, most fundamentally, a digital advertising firm.”
Well, on November 8, 2019, the Wall Street Journal produced a major article leading off its second section titled, “How Google Edged Out Rivals and Built the World’s Dominant Ad Machine.”
So, what business is Google really in?
Mr. Tilman and General Jacoby argue very forcefully that it is extremely important in today’s world to know “What Business Are We In?” The topic takes up all of their chapter 5.
So, let’s get back to the subject of the book… how to build an “agile” organization that can meet the challenges of today’s world.
First off, and I believe most important, is the building of the “culture” of the organization. Culture, according to the authors, sets the atmosphere in which all else takes place. I couldn’t agree more.
The culture of any organization begins at the very top. An organization must have a leader that sets the tone of all that is done within the corporation and must exemplify this culture in everything he or she says or does.
The leadership must build an atmosphere of “trust, honesty, accountability and empowerment.” And, the authors add, executives who possess this ability “are easy to spot.” Their presence is recognized in what they do and say.
This temperament is crucial in this world of “accelerating disruption.” It is important because in a world like this, to quote President Dwight Eisenhower, “plans are worthless, but planning is everything.”
The authors expand on this by writing that “[it] is not the existence of formal plans, but the act and the method of planning that enable agility.” And, this is the goal.
Because disequilibrium and change are the essence of the world today, attacking them require that managements must operate within a “forum of truth” and “foster the pursuit of truth” in everything they do.
Within this atmosphere, “trust is non-negotiable.”
Following on from this environment, the “team” applies the “levers of agility” to execute the planning efforts. But, the “team” must forever remain “on watch” because the changes never cease.
Mr. Tilman and General Jacoby define agility as:
“The organizational capacity to effectively detect, assess and respond to environmental changes in ways that are purposeful, decisive and grounded in the will to win.”
The one, full, case study presented in the book is that of Western Union Co. (NYSE: WU). After discussing the recent “agile” history of Western Union, the authors conclude:
“WU’s leadership knows full well that the technology and the operating environment around financial payments systems will continue to rapidly evolve. New disruptive technologies will surely emerge, new market entrants will seek to grab market shares, cybersecurity threat will intensify and regulatory regimes will evolve.”
“All of this will continually threaten business models and competitive advantages, necessitating a relentless fight for risk intelligence and course readjustments carefully shaped and decisively executed within a culture of trust.”
Think you can meet this standard?
Well, reading the work of Mr. Tilman and General Jacoby will help you move in the right direction.
The environment they examine is real and whether you are with a “legacy” firm or a “new” tech company, the issues that are presented must be constantly considered in today’s world.
And, if anything, the speed at which changes take place will continue to speed up. Any postponement of your effort to keep up will only place you further behind. No one wants that.
This article was written by
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