Organizational Flexibility and Why It Matters More Than Ever

Catherine Émond, CRHA
August 23 2021

Now more than ever, organizational flexibility seems to be the key solution to adapt to new challenges specific to the COVID-19 crisis. How can strategic flexibility effectively help organizations’ performance?

First, let’s define organizational flexibility. It refers to an organization’s ability to adapt successfully. To survive, companies must adapt to their environment in terms of technology, structure, work organization, work relationships and human resource management all at once. Organizational flexibility goes by many names in the literature: corporate responsiveness, versatility, etc. It consists of an adaptability to a constraint, an event or an environment that allows the organization to act quickly and stay ahead of the competition in terms of performance.

Why be more flexible?

Examples of challenges organizations face are increasing competition, globalization and social networks, to name but a few. The current crisis adds to these hardships, as it forces companies to adapt their way of doing business or to close down temporarily – or even permanently, with the consequential laying off of all of their workers. Adaptation, in the current context, has never been more complex. Therefore, organizations need to act swiftly and without delay.

Flexible organizations can diversify their products, simplify the management of their processes, and innovate both in terms of human resources management and organizational structures. It allows companies to be more efficient and dynamic. The environment is changing at a rapid pace, which means that organizations must keep up with this evolution to ensure their sustainability. Unfortunately, more often than not, they struggle with flexibility and are consequently unable to tackle these new challenges. The current pandemic is a relevant example: many companies face difficulties adapting to the abrupt changes we are all facing, while others have seen it as an opportunity. Did you know that in Japanese, the same word is used both for crisis and opportunity? In every crisis, there are opportunities – you just have to seize them.

How can you adapt?

Take advantage of the current crisis to review your organizational strategy

Re-evaluate your technologies, your work organization methods, your modus operandi, etc. Make a note of the hurdles you encounter. How can you adapt to the current context? What can you do differently? What have you learned about your business so far throughout the crisis? The help of a consultant may be necessary at this stage and for the implementation of more flexible methods. They will be able to guide you, give you advice, and pinpoint issues that you may not have been able to see because you were ‘on the inside’.

Reject the status quo

There is no going back to the way things were before the crisis. Instead, use what you’ve learned to develop more flexible and responsive ways of working. Maintain the strategy and practices you have practiced during this crisis and keep building them into the future.

Involve your employees

They are often in the best position to suggest improvements since they have firsthand knowledge of what needs to be done to improve the business environment. Welcome their comments and suggestions. You can also ask your customers or suppliers for support in making changes to your processes. Your focus should be on simplicity and flexibility! Your new work organization, your new operations or your new management must allow you to gain efficiency and to adapt quickly to any prospect.

There are different ways for a company to gain efficiency and flexibility. One of these is continuous improvement, which consists of continually questioning an organization’s ways of working to improve them. However, it is important to note that organizational flexibility is still attainable, even for a company that does not implement this management method.

In conclusion

The purpose of this short article is not to show you all the tools or methods you can use to be more flexible, but rather to start a discussion. I hope it will allow you to move forward and take a moment to review your organizational methods. Can they be adapted to a different context? Can they evolve?

The job market is fast changing. When it comes to technology, what was new yesterday will be outdated tomorrow! Companies must anticipate these evolutions and thus be more innovative and flexible. To that end, they can rely on IT software to help them optimize their management. This leads us to think about Human Resources Information Systems (HRIS) such as Folks HR, which offers a more efficient way of managing requests, employee files, follow-ups, etc. Other systems focused on project management or payroll solutions can also help organizational flexibility and save you time. They will be an essential asset in boosting organizational efficiency.

In short, our advice is as follows: don’t wait for another crisis before assessing your company’s organizational flexibility. Keep your mind and eyes open for opportunities. The success of your organization depends on its management and operating methods. The more flexible it is, the more it will adapt to its environment and its challenges in the future.  Start your analysis now, and don’t delay in implementing your changes. Be ready to start again in full force!


Flexibilité organisationnelle : complexité et profusion conceptuelles, Assâad El Akremi, Jacques Igalens and Christine Vicens, in Flexibilités et performances (2004), pages 21 to 50.


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