The BLG Blog

Posts & articles that have helped thousands build performance through pragmatic leadership.

The Importance of Structural Agility

For the last ten years and certainly in the last two years, a new mindset has taken over: the mindset of structural agility. The operative word here is agility–the rapid response to rapidly changing times. The theme emerged most dramatically around the debate of restructuring homeland security after 9/11. The imperative question became, how can we create organizations that minimize overlap, share information, and are capable of making quick adjustments?

In a world where we Twitter, hierarchies have to play different roles. In the world of blogging, sharing information must be immediate and direct. The hurdle is figuring out how structures can adapt to new technologies to order to enhance agility and rapid response.

It is not technology alone that is demanding the need for agile structures.  Markets, threats, and competition also necessitate structural agility. Simply put, in a world where booms and busts occur on the wave of irrational whims, in a world where non-state actors pose a constant threat, and in a world in which competition can emerge from anywhere, structural agility is critical.

The problem that we face is one of turf, one of embedded intent, institutionalized expectations, and enmeshed organizational structures. Too many of our organizations are set in their ways and stuck in their politics.

In the May/June 2010 issue of Foreign Affairs two wonderful articles illustrate this very point. Defense Secretary Bill Gates, in Helping Others Defend Themselves, writes about how a new relationship between the Department of Defense and the State Department can lead an increase US agility. He points out that our current bifurcated model no longer serves the needs of today.

Similarly, in The Brussels Wall,  William Drozdiak writes about the need for greater cooperation and structural changes between NATO and the European Union. With greater cooperation, organizational overlap, and a revitalized alliance, both organizations, Drozdiak argues, could handle international threats with greater composure and efficiency.

These articles, while concerned with foreign policy and strategy of defense, strike at the heart of structural issues leaders face daily in today’s economy–be it at universities, hospitals, multi-national conglomerates, local school districts, or in the world of finance. These articles’ focus on finding concrete ways to eliminate overlap and put in place structures that will enhance agility while overcoming the stagnation of bureaucracy and challenging the dysfunction of turf wars.

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