future fit organisations

Future fit organisations must be more than just agile

Building on the concept of agility, many companies are seeking to become future fit. But what does that mean in practice and what are the key elements to consider?

By their nature, businesses look to the future. They have plans to grow revenues, expand into new markets, take on more staff and a host of other things – with the strategies and tactics neatly laid out on spreadsheets and reports. But as the pandemic has taught us, the future is unpredictable. Growth plans that are based on a version of what the world looks like today can be thrown into complete disarray by unexpected events and disruptive new technologies. 

So, here’s the question. In a world where a virus, a war, changes in the world’s weather or a tech-enabled challenger can knock even the most carefully constructed business strategies out of joint, how do companies prepare for the future?  Or to put it another way, how can they ensure they are agile enough to weather storms and take advantage of opportunities in a rapidly shifting commercial environment? 

Increasingly businesses are embracing the concept of ‘future fitness’, and this is much more than simply planning ahead. The creation of a future-fit organisation requires a different way of thinking that combines digital transformation, a commitment to employee development, collaboration (internally and with stakeholders) and continuous innovation. And, crucially, the future fit company should be looking at ways to solve the world’s problems rather than playing a part in creating them. 

But what does that mean in practice?  How does your organisation become future-fit?

Establishing the Why 

Probably the first step is to understand why a change of collective mindset is important. The pandemic crystallised long-standing concerns, with leaders surveyed feeling organisations were “too slow, too siloed, too bogged down in complicated matrix structures and too bureaucratic.”

Go back a decade or more, and businesses addressed similar concerns by adopting the principles of agility. Essentially this meant moving more quickly when bringing products to market and working with clients to develop solutions to problems.

The idea of future fitness builds on the agility concept but this is much more than a rebranding with additional few bells and whistles.

Digital Transformation

For one thing, the pace of digital transformation has rapidly accelerated. Externally, businesses increasingly engaged with customers through digital channels. Internally, staff worked remotely while also collaborating across networks. In addition, the rapid adoption of cloud technology, big data, and artificial intelligence have enabled businesses to revolutionise functions ranging from marketing to supply chain management.  

Networks, and the technologies they support, are key pillars of future-fit organisations not least because automation is increasing the capacity of businesses to serve their clients while networking and collaborative tools are allowing teams to work more efficiently from a broad range of locations. 

And freed from some of the mundane work that can be handled by automation, a company’s people are open to work much more creatively. As information moves more quickly within and between teams, there is a huge opportunity for staff to work on projects that really matter – such as the rapid development of new products and business models. This leads, in turn, to future fitness.

A Force for Good

So how can this be done? ESG plays a role. Robust ESG policies can energise staff. Put simply, the Millennials and Generation Z cohorts in particular care deeply about the planet and their societies. They will be more likely to work hard for a company that is solving big problems.

Equally, they care about fairness. In addition, a company’s ambitions to be a good corporate citizen should be reflected in employment and career development policies that embrace diversity, inclusion and equity.

There are a lot of balls in play. Future-fit companies innovate, work collaboratively, and take advantage of the vast myriad of technologies available. But they are also people-centric. By getting serious about ESG companies are better able to attract talented people. By recruiting from diverse groups and ensuring that all employees have a chance to progress, they will be much more likely to retain key staff.