Flexibility is one of the most prevalent words in management and economic theories. It’s a concept which must constantly evolve in order to reflect and be adjusted to the dynamics of a market where change is continual.
It can therefore be difficult in this context, if not contradictory, to give a single definition to the word. Modern economies are sure of only one thing: “We can’t foresee what needs to be done, but it needs to be done fast,” explains Christophe Everaere, organization theorist. He adds that “flexibility can be defined as a capacity to adapt under a double constraint: uncertainty and urgency.”
The definition of flexibility must not be strict or rigid, but calls for modifying our strategic outlook. As it becomes harder to plan for a future whose imperatives are as yet unknown, strategic planning is disappearing, giving way to strategic management, which is less pyramidal, more dynamic and open. While purely hierarchical systems are built based on a genuine fear of the human factor, flexible management encourages nonhierarchical relationships which allow people to constantly adapt. Addressing the need for flexibility, externalizing is often seen as an easy solution, implemented for reasons of capacity (i.e. balancing expenses and workload) or specialization (acquiring know-how and new or complementary specialisms). “Subcontracting displaces costs and production variation management outside the company, thereby realigning them back to their main occupation,” explains Everaere, adding that “realigning leads every company to further specialize itself in areas in which they have a competitive advantage, drawing upon partners who are good, or even the best, in their respective sectors.”
Harsh as it is, this purely individual logic is nonetheless not enough. Lacking in subtlety, these practices are a menace to the very existence of suppliers in the long term. With products as complex as media products, the cost of recruiting partners in view of externalizing is always higher and needs to be gauged when calculating profitability. An externalization ecosystem’s durability must also be considered in the context of strategic reflection, as a vital element of long term savings.
While it would appear obvious that flexibility is becoming a requirement across all media companies, by putting forth thought and effort, these structures could be made more efficient, as well as more open, less hierarchical and rigid, offering employees and partners alike a better work environment, and thereby ensuring a more durable, serene future for all.