VUCA World Part 5: Pillar 2 of the Light Footprint Approach

In VUCA World Part 4: Pillar 1 of the Light Footprint Approach, we began to discuss The Light Footprint Approach presented by consulting firm Roland Berger, regarding how to survive in the VUCA world. They describe the standouts as “meta-winners – firms so singular that they are game-changers in their industry.” This approach is based on seven pillars divided into three areas: Innovation, Organization and Approach, which are the characteristics found in top performing corporations in the VUCA world. We will discuss the two pillars that make up the 2nd area of Organization, here:

Principles of The Light Footprint Approach – Organization

Extreme agility: “In the VUCA world, it is vital for firms to respond quickly to any change in their circumstances, realigning themselves without delay. This requires a subtle balance between centralization and decentralization: A strong command unit combined with the freedom of local entities to make their own decisions.

“One meta-winner here is the fashion retailer Zara. Key functions are centralized: All designers are located in the company’s headquarters in A Coruña (Spain), from where the logistics and marketing tasks are also managed. But Zara’s strength lies equally in its ability to operate in the field. The company gathers constant feedback from its stores all over the word. Designers regularly travel to spot trends as they emerge on the ground. Store managers are allowed to decide largely by themselves which clothes to order from Zara’s distribution centers. This mix of centralization and decentralization lends the firm exceptional agility, enabling it to bring new fashion trends into its stores in just two to four weeks – way ahead of the competition.”

Special forces: Meta-winners make use of special forces within their organizations – small, multidisciplinary, autonomous teams dedicated to achieving a particular goal. These special forces are the business equivalent of the small, highly trained units set up by the US military in place of large battalions, such as the Navy SEALs. For companies they are the real “gemba” – the place where value is created – optimizing the contribution of the workforce thanks to their multidisciplinary expertise, commitment and motivation. Meta-winners use special forces to foster innovation and accelerate change. Nestlé is a good example: It set up special teams to accelerate the use of digital change throughout its organization. Similarly, GE set up Local Growth Teams (LGTs) to stimulate innovation.

The pillars of The Light Footprint Approach are to be used as a guide; the examples given being textbook cases of success. Each organization may take relevant pieces of this approach and build up an existing organization or bring a thriving company to the next level. Stay tuned for the final article regarding the remaining pillars of The Light Footprint Approach.

Traci Kingery, PHR is an HR Professional and freelance writer based in the Midwest, specializing in immigration and talent management. When she’s not improving unemployment, she keeps busy with her husband and four children.

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