There are a number of adjectives that we now associate with successful companies, dynamic, progressive, visionary, but none resonate more than agile. Agility is seen as a pre-requisite for innovation, the main reason why startups are generally considered to be better at it than larger companies.
But agility is not something that larger companies should just assume will subside once their employee count rises, far from it. With care and attention, even the world's largest companies can remain flexible and ready to tackle whatever the marketplace throws at them.
Fostering agility is not just a matter of decentralising all your operations and processes. There needs to be an element of centralisation in your business model or you'll experience the same problems that strict bureaucracy brings, like slower response times and product development. With your business model, it's a balancing act between bureaucracy and adhocracy and giving your workforce the environment it needs to innovate effectively.
Your workforce is the cornerstone to your innovation efforts. To ensure that your company is agile, your workforce has to be capable of taking on a number of different roles, or at least aware of what other departments offer to the overall company. This requires companies to make sure that their staff receive regular training and have the ability to look outside the box, they're the centrepiece to innovation, so it's essential that these boxes are ticked.
It doesn't matter how flat your organisational structure is, leaders will always be present. Leadership, however, has changed significantly since the recession and when cultivating an agile environment, management holds the key to a company's success. Leaders should learn to question their judgement and be aware that their subordinates may well have ideas that can add something to the way a particular function operates. Above all else, leaders understand that things change and that for the company to change with them, they need to be willing to change their approach.
There's no reason why large companies can't be agile in today's environment. It's a process that's easier said than done and one that might even require a cultural shift, but it'll be worth it in the long run. The bottom line is, get a company portfolio as diverse as your people and never ever rest on your laurels.