Cart-Path-Only: Do you lack business agility to sense and respond to market changes?

Reposted from Michael Fillios of IT Ally with permission:

While on vacation in South Carolina visiting family and friends in Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head last week, I decided to pack my clubs and enjoy a few rounds of golf.

Our first stop was Myrtle Beach to visit my in-laws and play golf with my father-in-law, Garry, who is 80, and Griffin, my 17-year-old son – a cherished annual tradition. We arrived at the course to find it was a “cart-path-only” day due to recent heavy rains. To the non-golfers reading this, cart-path-only means that if you are driving a golf cart, you must stay on the paved path and cannot ride on the grass.

For the average golfer like me, this is always a challenge. I am often uncertain which direction my ball will go. Therefore, having the use of a cart that can roam the course, creates more flexibility and more importantly, speeds up the pace of play. In this case, I also had not only to consider my play but my son, a novice and my father-in-law, ailing but accurate, now required to walk to his ball, though often in the fairway and easy to find. This round of “cart-path-only golf” had to end after nine holes. But never the less we had a great time together.

Golf mecca Hilton Head Island was the back end of our trip. Griffin and I booked an early, twosome tee time to beat the heat. Once again, we learned, at check-in, it was another “cart-path-only” day. Undeterred, we went on to play a very enjoyable if long and tiring 18-hole round of golf.

Upon reflecting on this experience, it got me thinking about the limitations, constraints and lack of flexibility of this “cart-path-only” approach and how it might apply to business. The objective to score low was now shared with the objective for fast play and less arduous completion of the course. To achieve this, you had to deliberately and successfully hit your ball within proximity of the cart path.

For a business that would mean constraint to a single strategy. You would have no option to adjust or to respond to market changes, locked into your lane unable to take advantage of opportunities.

I am certain the feelings I experienced on the course, being limited, slow to move and bound to a predefined path, would hamper and strangle a business trying to compete in today’s rapidly changing and dynamic market.

Defining Business Agility

In 2009, I wrote an article titled “Building an Agile Organization.” It proposed that “agile organizations have processes and structures that enable them to know what is going on both internally and externally, . . . and the mechanisms needed to act quickly on that knowledge.”

“ . . . evidence indicates that enterprises can best achieve agility by following basic management principles, using imagination to see an organization in a different light and having a willingness to adjust or change based on circumstances.”

I laid out 3 capabilities, key to pursuing and achieving business agility.

  • Learn to sense and respond
  • Emphasize improvement and innovation
  • Distribute and coordinate authority

Agility provides businesses the power to move quickly and easily; nimbleness. It is the ability of an organization to renew itself, adapt, change quickly and succeed in a rapidly evolving, ambiguous, turbulent environment.

Becoming an agile organization is easier said than done. But in my opinion, has the potential to yield superior business performance.

Agility Challenges and Impact

Agility has always been a hallmark of large successful, established companies. But with today’s levels of uncertainty, ambiguity, market volatility, and globalization, agility is essential for any company. If you think you’re still in a corner where this doesn’t hold true, wait for the disruption to come. Tomorrow it will be relevant for you.

From a technology perspective, inflexible legacy IT systems, technical debt, antiquated infrastructure, insufficient skills and resource constraints, budgetary challenges, a short-term planning perspective, an ineffective governance process, and data quality issues, could be the “cart-path-only” placards constraining your game.

It’s easy to envision how these limitations cause a competitive disadvantage. It results in the inability to meet changing customer needs, to address regulatory and compliance requirements, increased exposure to security risk, and ultimately an inefficient and costly operating model.

Important Questions to Consider

If you are trying to master business agility or just want out of the “cart-path-only” mode; IT Ally can help.   For starters, here are a few questions from our Business Agility diagnostic that, at a minimum, tee off your own self-assessment.

  1. How quickly can your company respond to new opportunities/challenges?
  2. Who has primary responsibility for planning for change?
  3. What is the general state of your technology environment and how well do your major systems share data with each other?
  4. What is the primary factor in guiding alignment among decisions in your company?
  5. What visibility into industry and market trends do you have?

To learn more about Business Agility, please visit