Relationship Between Complexity & Business Agility

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  • 0:04 What is Agility?
  • 0:52 Business Complexity
  • 3:03 Agility and Complexity
  • 4:54 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Agility allows companies to respond to changes quickly. But how does it relate to organizational complexity? In this lesson, we'll examine factors that contribute to complexity, including how agility and complexity interact.

What Is Agility?

Soo-Lin is the owner of a company that designs apps for people trying to learn new skills. She's noticed that things are always changing. The wants that customers have change from day to day, and the tech industry trends change from day to day, as well. So, the question is: how can Soo-Lin deal with all this change?

Agility is an organization's capacity to respond quickly to changes in industry and/or customer demands. For example, if customers change from wanting a single app that teaches many things to wanting to have many apps that each teach only one thing in depth, Soo-Lin's company is going to have to meet that demand. This is their agility.

To help Soo-Lin understand agility better, let's take a closer look at business complexity and its relationship with agility.

Business Complexity

Making her company agile seems like a good solution to Soo-Lin, but she's a little skeptical about her ability to do it. It seems like a company with only three employees and one or two products would find it easier to be agile than a company like hers, which employs hundreds of people and has hundreds of products.

When Soo-Lin thinks about the number of employees or company products, she's beginning to think about business complexity, which is about how complicated or intricate an organization is. For example, Soo-Lin's company has hundreds of employees and is far more complex than a company with just two or three. More employees leads to more complications and more intricate communication.

There are many things that can make a company complex. They include the following things:

  • The number of employees, products, or services. As we've already seen, Soo-Lin's company has a lot of employees and makes several different apps. The more people, products, and services a company has to juggle, the more complex the organization becomes.
  • The number and type of company locations. If Soo-Lin's company has only one office for everyone, it's easier to manage than if it has half a dozen headquarters locations around the world or if every employee works from home. Thus, the more locations a company has, the more complex it becomes.
  • The interrelationships between team members. If employees within Soo-Lin's company only interact with a few other people, it is simpler than if everyone interacts with dozens of employees every day. You can think of relationships as spider webs: the more strands that connect people to other people, the more complex the organization becomes.
  • The duration and complexity of individual projects. Not only can a company be complex, so can its projects. Let's say Soo-Lin wants to develop a new app. If the app only requires a few people to develop it and will only take a few weeks to finish development, that's a relatively simple project. In contrast, if the new app requires dozens of people and years to develop, it becomes a much more complex project. The more complex and time-consuming projects a company has, the more complex the company becomes.

Agility & Complexity

Thinking about her company's complexity makes Soo-Lin feel overwhelmed. How can they ever be agile with so much complexity?

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