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Leaping forward – Why organizational dexterity is making a difference

Ursula Bohn
February 7, 2020

The ever-changing market demands one thing above everything else: short development cycles, speed, adaptability, and flexibility. In order to achieve this goal, agile methods provide us with the necessary tools. But are agile methods alone enough for an organization to survive in today’s world? What can enable them to successfully deal with increasingly complex circumstances in the future?

Acting agile, dexterity as an attitude

Organizational dexterity is the answer to these questions. It raises the purely methodical approach from the level of “doing” to a meta-level of “being” dexterous, thus encompassing the behaviors, attitudes, and values of the company. Embedded into the corporate culture, organizational dexterity leads to sustainability when dealing with any new challenge. Depending on the situation and requirements of the change, it enables companies to adapt quickly and flexibly to different organizational designs, to adopt and benefit from them. The methods applied then can, but do not have to be agile. Organizational dexterity by no means undermines the importance and raison d’être of agility and agile methods, it rather enables their successful use.

Dexterity, a mindset indispensable in the future

Where do companies stand today in terms of organizational dexterity? Our change management study 2019 “Leaping forward – Paths to Organizational Dexterity” is addressing precisely this question. It analyses the current status of the surveyed companies undergoing the transformation process.

Run faster, look around, leap forward – the image of Parkour running aptly illustrates organizational dexterity. In contrast to other sports, Parkour does not have a route in advance. Furthermore, there is not necessarily a fixed goal. The Parkour runners overcome various obstacles at high speed to stay on course. Here it does not matter whether hurdles were known in advance or not. The “cognitive readiness” enables the runners to anticipate and apply their tools to any given situation – even if it requires some modifications.

The study shows that 54.5 % of the respondents are currently in the so-called “probational phase” (see Figure 1). In contrast to companies in the “experimental phase,” which is primarily concerned with learning and trying out new methods, they are already one step further: they experiment with concepts, test and implement them, and slowly begin to detach themselves from the respective set of rules. They continue to develop towards the “establishment phase,” the third phase of the dexterity model, which embodies highly dexterous organizations (see Fig. 1). The proven positive effects of organizational dexterity, including job satisfaction, economic success, and digital literacy, make it clear that this development is meaningful and important.

Figure 1: Maturity model with three stages of Organizational Dexterity

In addition to the positive impacts, the study also identified several factors that currently delay the achievement of a higher level of maturity of organizational dexterity. As with Parkour, training is essential. More and more new challenges will complicate the path and cause one or two setbacks. However, in these cases, the right attitude allows for a quick recovery and makes it possible to face future challenges with increased strength, therefore staying on track.

Drawing on many years of experience in change management, the Capgemini Invent Organizational Dexterity model was developed. Each dimension represents an independent quality and no dimension should be neglected.

Figure 2: The eight dimensions of the Capgemini Invent Organizational Dexterity Model

Expert interviews with various companies also showed that the main success factors that favor the internalization of dexterity fall primarily into the dimensions of “culture” and “leadership & people.” Even if there are individual teams in the company that manage the current obstacles completely on their own, there must be someone who runs ahead in a motivating way – someone who is on top of things and, above all, supports dexterity. The corresponding thought patterns and values must be embedded in the entire corporate culture, otherwise it is difficult to make any progress.

The path is the goal!

In today’s world, it is increasingly difficult to define a long-term goal in advance and plan how to achieve it. To meet this challenge, companies need to focus on finding the right direction for themselves and tailoring their path individually to it. Compared to the original definition of a goal, setting a direction is less rigid. The focus is thus broadened to include the definition of milestones along the way in order to be able to deal with external influences more flexibly. In this sense, the path is already the goal! Organizational dexterity is the necessary mindset in order to be able to deal with new things profitably and sustainably along the way. Knowing how to circumnavigate the obstacle was yesterday. Today, every obstacle is a chance to take the leap while moving forward and gaining new skills.