Fundamentals of Business Agility

Laura Goodrich Posted by Laura Goodrich.

Laura is cofounder of On Impact, an integrated content company that specializes in creating and producing videos, television, and multimedia content delivered over time to create sustained change and adoption of important leadership concepts.


Fundamentals of Business Agility

Not so long ago, sustainable competitive advantage made a huge difference in the success of an organization. Big firms dominated purely on the availability of funds and a single core competency while small companies and startups struggled to sustain and make a mark.

The scenario began to change with the evolution of digital technology. The startups of the last decade are now the face of modern business world. On the other hand, the companies relying on economies of scale are fast vanishing from the scene because of their inability to quickly react to market change. They have systems and processes in place to respond to market shifts but they are either not able to identify when to change or the processes are woefully rigid with almost no scope for flexibility.

What is Business Agility?

In order to survive in today’s highly volatile business environment, companies must be able to quickly react to change. They need to be agile in their approach.

But what exactly does business agility mean? Reacting to change in a speedy manner?

No! It means striving to make change a part of an organization’s DNA. Because change is perpetual, an organization must be always ready to adapt to new environments and take advantage of emerging opportunities. When adapting to change becomes a part of an organization’s culture, it can actually “walk the talk” and stay ahead of the competition.

You, as a business owner, can claim that you are ready to respond to market shifts. But is your team ready? Do they understand their roles in making the company agile? Are they able to change whenever the need arises? Do they actively and consciously participate in the process of change? Are they able to work in random and un-choreographed environment? You are not an agile business unless your people are.

Agility is an enterprise-wide practice that requires a clear vision and strong commitment from everyone. It’s a tough task to identify when to change, disseminate knowledge and manage change. Before you implement change, you should establish trust among your employees. You may want to encourage them to experiment and fail, and fail fast in order to quickly move on to the next thing.

Business agility is a behavior. It’s the response of your people and your organization as a whole towards a stimulus, which can be a technological, economical, political or social change. If you are looking to eliminate resistance to change and build organizational agility, it’s important to begin with fundamentals.

Fundamentals of Business Agility

1. Simplified Processes

True, fluidity or flexibility is one of the most notable features of organizational agility. But simplification and standardization of business processes is an essential part of enabling people to quickly take an action. When they begin with a standardized course, they can promptly identify the problems, and can resort to an alternative way of doing things. Instead of thinking how to behave in unexpected situations, they straight away get into action. However, the processes are defined in such a manner that reduces waste of time and has scope for flexibility. For an organization to be agile, It’s important to actively manage its portfolios of business processes.

According to Project Management Institute’s Pulse of Profession Report on Organizational Agility, organizations frequently using portfolio management are more agile than those that don’t use it. Standardization using proven management approaches with a scope of flexibility and dynamism is one of the fundamentals of achieving agility. It’s like operating at the edge of chaos – in a borderline region that lies between standardization and fluidity.

2. Free Flow of Communication

The quality of communication has a direct impact on the quality of your organization’s culture. It directly conditions what people think and feel and how they behave. If you focus on creating a pleasant state within, you’re definitely going to have a great impact on the world outside. Free exchange of ideas among individuals aggregates required resources, experiences, intellect and behavior, which are important to drive change – speedy change.

Free flowing communication allows workforce to be agile, which is the ultimate aim.

3. Ability to Identify and Analyze Gap

Most of the times, it’s difficult to find roadblocks in implementing change. In such a scenario, adaptability and nimbleness find no meaning. Here is an example. Your company is trying to overcome the disruption caused by a change in digital technology. While a change in your business processes is already being implemented at the root level, your managers are still not responding positively to this event.

The true power lies in identifying the gap to successfully incorporate an agile mindset. Experts say that agility is in the mind. To become a more agile business, you need to think agile.

4. Understanding that Change is Permanent

Organizations with agile mindset know that there is no magic bullet to stay ahead of competition but to speedily, efficiently and constantly respond to change. Such organizations embrace social, technological and economical changes as a matter of routine.

The Project Management Institute’s Report reveals that 92 percent of the organizations that are effective in change management report moderate to high agility. The organizations that are not agile in their approach are extremely slow at managing change.

5. Interdisciplinary Teams

Moderate to highly agile organizations rely more on human intellect than procedures. They encourage free exchange of ideas, brainstorming, critical analysis and problem solving among employees from different backgrounds. They are encouraged to repeatedly generate ideas, experiment and capitalize on them as fast as possible. Needless to mention, it’s an ongoing activity that promotes serial execution. Agile businesses firmly believe that no one of us is as smart as all of us.

6. Lean Thinking Quick Action

In today’s economy, it’s important to get rid of what is unnecessary and pull together only those things that are required to execute a certain task. Lean thinking results in quick execution. It is about:

  • Doing more with less
  • Identifying gaps
  • Establishing simplified procedures for a smoother flow
  • Eliminating waste
  • Innovating quick
  • Achieving small

Lean thinking drives efficiency, reduces hassles and targets sustainable benefits, that are essential for being agile.

Agility is also profitable for a business. According to a research conducted at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), agile enterprises generate 30% higher profits than non-agile businesses. Not only this, agile organizations reap multiple other benefits. They drive innovation, attract the best talent and establish a responsive culture.

In a business world that is always face-to-face with change, only agility can help companies survive and grow. What agility practices are you following? We would love to hear what’s working for your business.

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