“In times of rapid change, experience could be your worst enemy.” – J. Paul Getty
I have the great fortune of working with a lot of terrific leaders. They share a bunch of characteristics, but for the purposes of this post I just want to focus on one that doesn’t always get a lot of attention – agility.
One of the best strategy sessions I’ve been involved with lately was with a client who’s been planning an expansion of their facility for several years. This client wants to grow, and it made sense that expansion in their current location was the way to do that. They’ve been working on efficiency & effectiveness, saving money, etc.
Recently, developments in their industry have changed the equation. Expanding their facility is no longer as attractive. Suddenly it appears that multiple locations – and providing a very unique product in their segment of the market – is the way to go. It was at that recent strategy session that we discussed that change of plan.
This particular leader recognized that things had changed, recognized that the situation needed to be re-evaluated, and determined that their vision of the future needed a tweak. Too many leaders would have said, “We’ve put all this work into facility expansion so we can’t quit now”. Whether it’s pride or something else, their refusal to adjust would’ve ended up committing their businesses to a course of action that was no longer relevant. This particular leader sidestepped that landmine.
The point is this: Your business needs to change, and you need to have a clear vision for that, but that vision has to be flexible and agile. Too many things change too quickly to keep your plans static. Think of it this way. Let’s say you have the math equation 1+2+3=6. So 6 is the answer. But if you change it to 1+2+4, does it still equal 6? Of course not. If the variables change, so does the answer. Yet so many businesses continue to stick to the answer they started with years ago, even after all the variables have changed, some more than once.
Yes, you need to be determined and be focused and persevere. But don’t confuse perseverance with stubbornness. If you’re a leader, and agility isn’t one of your core competencies, you will eventually find yourself trying to achieve a goal or outcome that no longer matters. And after years of working for that goal, you’ll realize you’ve just wasted time and resources that you’ll never get back.
Be agile, and be ready for success, in whatever form it takes.