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The Evolution of Business Agility – and Olympic Hockey

on March 1, 2010

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What we can learn about business agility from world class hockey players.

I was sitting with a few friends watching USA and Canada fight for the gold in men’s hockey when I we started talking about the changes in hockey over the years. The sport has been played without much change for decades, aside from the laser timing and broadcasting technologies that have been introduced to all Olympic sports.

A buddy of mine, who had been a college hockey player, mentioned some changes he noticed in the way players well, play. He explained that hockey players rarely ever relied on the amount of agility they do to win these days. “None of this lightening fast tap dance to the net” I believe were his words.

Where physics meets strategy

Hockey had once been a game of force; a product of mass and acceleration that resulted in bloodied jerseys and missing teeth. Not to say this basic principle is entirely gone, but agility has become a pillar of Olympic skills that seem to have taken priority over size, speed and vigor. The truth is, every team brings their best hockey players to the table, or rink in this case. Coming away with the big W requires a plethora of variables to pan out just right, one of which is the overall skill and strategy of the team.

To the keen hockey spectator, agility scores more goals. To the Business Agility blogger, agility scores more goals. When size and speed are maxed out, players need to rely on their maneuverability at the net. Starting to see the connection? Your company is centered on three pillars, a simplistic model, but an accurate one. You have your team, your opportunity, and your resources – and guess what, agility is as important to your team as it is to modern Olympians.

Think about it… A company can grow and grow until its mammoth proportions result in its inability take advantage of new opportunities. (I’m picturing a sumo wrestler skating down the rink… no goal) On the other hand, you can be small and quick, allowing you to exploit new opportunities but at a smaller scale; your smaller scale. (An ice dancer… maybe a goal, more likely a broken spine) Then there’s a balance; the right amount of business agility – one part decision making and implementation speed and one part capital force not to be reckoned with. Now you can take advantage of opportunities, and have the strength to rebound if the opportunity flops. Now you’re scoring goals.

Balance is everything

Business agility is all about achieving the right balance. A company that wants to grow as fast as possible will need to be able to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. Just as coaches of Olympic hockey teams modify their strategy to make goal-scoring hockey teams – company leadership should be thinking about the technology they use and how fast they can use it. If you weren’t watching last night, see below to watch Crosby’s agility bring Canada the gold.

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