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Business trends are constantly changing and the requirements for being a successful business are continuously in flux. It can be difficult for an organization to achieve and maintain the agility necessary to adapt with the market. That agility, or organizational optionality, rarely occurs on accident, but can be deliberately nurtured.

Organizations that maintain market awareness, hire and train for the future, and who experiment are agile and best postured to take advantage of market changes:
Maintain Market Awareness: The foundation of achieving organizational optionality is maintaining market awareness. Attending your industry’s conferences and following competitors on social media will help you understand what is changing in your industry. Additionally, reading books in your field as well as following trends discussed in industry journals is critical. Maintaining this market awareness will inform all the other deliberate steps you take to ensure your company is agile enough to respond to market changes. Leaders are readers!

Hire for the Future: If your business is going to be successful, you want to have employees who can do more than what their immediate positions demand. In addition to ensuring a new hire can do the tasks for their current position, screen job applicants for the skills that industry analysts are predicting are emerging as new critical skill sets. Hiring employees with current AND emergent skill sets postures your organization to evolve with the market.

Train to Emerging Trends: Providing or offsetting training in emergent skill sets early enough in a market change can insulate your company from any adverse impacts. Better still, it can posture your company to take advantage of the market change and get even farther ahead. Ensuring your employees have the skills to compete in emerging markets can protect them, your company, and keep you from having to make costly hiring actions as you search for new employees with the requisite skills. You won’t have to do that since your current employees will already have been trained!

Pro Bono Work: Providing pro bono work in market areas where you believe your company has potential to expand can do a lot to posture your company for change. Pro bono work can allow you to support charities or advocacies that you care about, while testing out new products, services, or processes. You can experiment with a much lower risk, serve the community, and test your company’s aptitude to do new kinds of work. In some instances, the pro bono work can help your company at tax time. The lessons learned can be applied in your company as you change to meet new market challenges. Look for opportunities to experiment and contribute in your community!  

Achieving Organizational Optionality

Assessing Productivity Shorfalls

Cost Sharing Training

Products and Services

How to Hire Creative Thinkers

The market will change; new products and services will be required of companies in order for them to be successful. The skills necessary to deliver these products and services are constantly changing. Ensure your company has organizational optionality by maintaining market awareness, hiring and training for the future and using pro bono opportunities to experiment with your company’s potential to do new work.

Michael Farr, PMP, is a Chief Master Sergeant in the U.S. Air Force and founder of He is passionate about recognition and enabling professionals to motivate their organizations through recognizing their member’s excellence. When he is not slaying dragons with his kids, he can be found at @fosterxcellence on Twitter and @fosteringexcellence on Facebook.