One of the key lessons of 2020 is the need for companies, and individuals, to become more resilient.
Many organizations think they are resilient, but they are not. Research by McKinsey found that less than 10 percent of publicly traded companies pre-COVID were resilient. The lack of business resiliency is evident as you look across the host of big name retailers and restaurants that are closing for good—from 24 Hour Fitness to Pier 1 Imports and Brooks Brothers—and across the silent failures of small businesses that are dying by the thousands.
Likewise, many individuals overestimate their own resilience. Research by Everyday Health and Ohio State University found 83 percent of Americans think they have high levels of mental and emotional resilience, yet only 57 percent score as resilient.
The ability to bounce back from adversity (resilience) relies heavily on your ability to change course quickly and easily (agility). The good news is that you can learn and develop your agility skills which in turn will make you more resilient. Spotting the five key culprits that impede agility is the first step.
5 culprits that destroy agility and how to overcome them
The first behavior that sabotages agility is success. In fact, a touch of paranoia just might be what’s needed to help companies stay on top.
Andy Grove, founder and former CEO of Intel, described the conundrum best:
“Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.”
Grove believed business success contained the seeds of its own destruction. He believed that at least some fear is healthy—especially in organizations that have had a history of success. Fear can be a healthy antidote to the complacency that success often breeds. A touch of paranoia—a suspicion that the world is changing against you—is what Grove prescribed.
You need look no further than the S&P 500 to understand what Grove was advocating. Back in 1958, the average lifespan of companies listed on the S&P 500 was 61 years. Today, it’s down to 18 years. And, according to research firm McKinsey, by 2027, 75 percent of the companies currently on the S&P 500 will have disappeared.
Lesson: Don’t let success be your downfall.
|2| Status quo
The second culprit that destroys agility is inertia, complacency and the status quo.
A study by the Harvard Business Review found that organizations put tremendous pressure on employees to conform instead of challenging the status quo. In a survey of more than 2,000 U.S. employees across a wide range of industries, nearly half of employees regularly feel pressure to conform in their organization, and more than half say that people in their organization do not question the status quo. That’s a problem.
Although not all conformity is bad, we need to strike the right balance between stability and agility.
We’ve seen many famous brands lose their way because they were resistant to change. Remember EF Hutton, TWA, and General Foods? How about Borders, Circuit City, and Blockbuster? These brands were once household names, but not anymore.
Reflecting on my own experience, I saw the effects of success and maintaining the status quo first hand.
I began my marketing career at the Eastman Kodak Company. Kodak, at that time, was a big-league player and a household name. They ranked among the top twenty of the Fortune 500. At their peak, they commanded 90 percent of all film sales and 85 percent of all camera sales in the U.S. They also ranked as the fourth most valuable brand in the world.
Today, Kodak is a fraction of its former self and has spent much of the last decade attempting to maneuver out of bankruptcy and into new business areas. Once one of the most powerful companies in the world, today the company has a market cap of about $545 million.
So what happened? A century of success led to complacency, lack of organizational agility, and antibodies against anything that might compete with film.
Admittedly, conformity and maintaining the status quo are powerful forces that act as enemies to meaningful change.
Lesson: The status quo is the archenemy of agility.
The third obstacle that sabotages agility is having tunnel vision, being closed minded or having blinders on. In essence, ignoring the warning signs of a sub-optimal organization.
Blinders might help race horses maintain their focus by limiting their peripheral vision and staying keenly focused on the road in front of them, but blinders can be disastrous to your business and professional success.
Marketers often ignore the warning signs that a business is headed for a massive pivot and inevitable transformation. I call theseTweet