6 Critical Organizational Success Factors for Embracing Volatility

6 Critical Organizational Success Factors for Embracing Volatility

Gone are the days of predictability. Volatility is here to stay. Organizations no longer have the luxury of allowing their employees and leaders to sit back and enjoy the tranquility of a stable environment, which required relatively little upkeep to maintain the status quo. Instead, their very survival requires that stakeholders learn how to adapt to the permanent “white water” conditions that characterize the environment. For organizations to thrive, their leaders must be able to clarify priorities and effectively allocate resources that are scarcer than ever. Forget the deceptive and ultimately destructive bromide, “We need to do more with less!” For their organizations to successfully navigate these turbulent conditions over the long term, leaders must learn to do less with less, focusing on mission-critical programs, processes, people, and systems.

Here are six critical success factors for embracing volatility in ways that will allow the organization to thrive:

1. Courageous leaders
I define courageous leaders as individuals who focus relentlessly on achieving the organization’s mission, especially when they are surrounded by chaos, uncertainty, and fear-based opposition. They make and implement the tough decisions required when faced with the reality of extraordinary shortages of resources. They seek and find the opportunities inherent in the volatility rather than succumb to the obstacles that less bold leaders point to as reasons to hide under the desks till the storm blows over.

2. Concrete and unambiguous definition of the playing field
Every organizational stakeholder must know, with certainty and precision, what “game” they are playing, who the players are, the rules of the game, the specific roles that they fill, and the desired end result. They must know what is “in” and what is “out” of play so they can concentrate on the former and not waste time on the latter.

3. Clear priorities
In order to allocate scarce resources most effectively, there must be unmistakable priorities. Leaders must model priorities-based decision-making.

4. Ability to release people and things that no longer serve the organization’s mission well
Everything that is done must contribute directly to the organization’s mission. Anything that is not mission-critical must be jettisoned if the organization is to thrive. This is a time to gain exceptional clarity about what the organization does, and why.

5. Accountability
Although accountability was a critical success factor for thriving in more stable times, it often fell by the wayside when leaders were willing to settle for less than excellence, or for a lower standard of performance, when resources were more plentiful. In volatile times, however, the ability to thrive demands accountability at all levels.

6. Creativity and innovation
About the only thing we know for certain about these volatile times is that there will be continued turbulence. Things we cannot forecast with any certainty include what new challenges and opportunities will present themselves, and how we can handle them. What we can do is encourage and reward those who apply their creativity and innovation to address the opportunities in ways that help the organization succeed.

How many of these critical success factors does your organization have?

Pat Lynch, Ph.D., is President of Business Alignment Strategies, Inc., a consulting firm that helps clients optimize business results by aligning people, programs, and processes with organizational goals. You may contact Pat or call (562) 985-0333.


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