Staying nibble: 5 Approaches for quickly identifying and responding to environmental changes

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The environment that a firm operates in is constantly changing. To be best aligned with the changing environment, it is necessary that the company adapts. This article explores approaches that can help keep companies nimble – able to adapt to the changing environment. 

Approach 1: Flat organizational structure

Having a flat organizational structure is one way firms can attempt to remain nimble. How flat the organization is refers to the number of management organizational levels. In flat organizations, there are few layers between the lowest employees and the CEO. This can help streamline raising information – those employees that are close to the front line can more easily communicate their information up the company hierarchy when there are only a few layers to management.

In comparison, if there are many organizational layers, it becomes much more difficult to get information raised – it now must pass through many layers of management before it reaches the top of the firm (with many more potential stages for it to be held in bureaucratic decision making). 

Approach 2: Listening to your customers

Another component of remaining nimble is to actively listen to what customers are saying. Customers may have changing demands, and actively seeking their input, with processes in place relay this information to product development, is one way that companies can stay responsive to a changing environment. 

Approach 3: Actively monitoring the environment

Beyond changing customer demands, it is important that companies are aware and responsive to other external changes. Actively monitoring changes in the environment – potentially with your suppliers, competitors, or other external stakeholders – is important to quickly respond to the changes. The more actively you are monitoring the environment, the quickly you can identify and respond to changes. 

Approach 4: Building connections between different parts of the business

Part of being nimble requires you to actively respond to changes as they occur. Achieving this requires some degree of communication between the various divisions of the business. ORganizational silos – where one division doesn’t speak to the other (such as sales not speaking to product development) can result in changes that are identified by one part of the firm never being communicated to another part to be able to act on. 

Approach 5: Periodically reviewing and scrapping side-projects

A final component of remaining nimble is to actively look to scrap side-projects that are tangential to the overall strategy of the firm. Especially as companies get bigger it is not unusual to see an increasing number of projects develop – many of which are not integrated into the overall firm. While some of these may have value, others persist despite it becoming apparent that there is demand or that they unlikely to work. Taking a proactive stance to scrap these projects can help free up resources to work on other areas of the firm. 

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