What Is Business Agility? (And Why You Won't Survive Without It)
It’s not the strongest company that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.
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We are living in a world that is changing at a very fast pace, and it is becoming challenging for organizations to stay relevant to their customers. Also, every day we see that there are more companies both evolving and collapsing at almost the same rate.
For organizations to be successful, they need to start thinking about business agility.
What exactly is this?
Business agility is a company’s ability to adapt quickly to market changes, irrespective of whether it's internal or external. If the organization can navigate these changes in a productive, cost-effective way without compromising quality, then they can sail through any competitive storm.
Since my story began as a start-up scrum master, agility in all aspects was key. We as a start-up had to rapidly pivot or persevere on our product every quarter, sometimes even every sprint.
In the long run, though, I have realized that for every size organization, agility in business is the need of the hour. Change happens every day, and the rate of change is compounding; when we design for customer needs today, their needs have already changed by tomorrow.
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Keeping up with these changes is the crux of business agility, and if we don’t we become extinct.
My top 6 pointers for organizations to achieve business agility:
1. Think like a start-up
I suggest adopting the concept of “entrepreneurs are everywhere” from lean start-up to large organization. When we blend this to the traditional management style, we will be able to break down long term product development plans to short term. MVPs can be created (Minimum Viable Product) and experimented, and based on the results, changes can be made and then the complete product can be built. This will help to stay relevant to the market and helps to receive customer feedback at a very early stage.
2. Business agility is for business processes in the organization
Each organization should revisit their own business processes, and the legacy ones should be studied to see if they are relevant today and if changes are needed. If there are multiple handovers and lack of transparency with shared accountability, it will be very difficult to achieve business agility. We need to see through the system thinking lens and try to eliminate waste in every stage of the process.
3. Business agility is for the people in the organization
The organization is formed by people, so in order to become agile, we need to focus on how to improve the ways of engaging with our employees. I recommend the below changes to bring in agility:
- Traditional command and control approach should change to easy collaboration and sharing of ideas without limitation of hierarchy.
- Each team member should feel that he/she is respected, and they can trust their organization.
- Guidance should be provided by the leaders to handle uncertainty and changing situations.
- Communication should be free-flowing within the organization and should be more transparent and spontaneous.
- Reward and praise should be immediate and recognized at the right time.
- Departmental silo style of working should not be encouraged, and everyone involved should understand the value of the flow and how they should contribute.
- Feedback channels are more important, and each team member should feel that their voice is heard.
- Employees should be allowed to adopt empiricism so that they feel that the environment is safe to innovate.
- Customer-centric goals should be made clear and known to everyone involved.
- As per the Pyramid of employee engagement (source – HBR.org), each organization should focus on moving employees from satisfied to engaged and then inspired employees. Inspired employees will be the most productive.
4. Business agility is for technology in the organization
To keep up with the pace of the market, the organization should consider investing in the latest technologies and keep exploring how to maintain customer engagement with their products. Today, we see that many organizations are starting to adopt Artificial Intelligence, robotic automation, etc, which helps them to be more technologically advanced and is a very good example of adopting agility.
5. Business agility is exceptional customer service and delight
In this competitive world, we can only retain customers by providing them exceptional customer service and keep innovating our products. Customers in recent days are more aware and are using the Internet to easily gather information to make their purchase decisions. So, to retain them, we need to keep them engaged, be more collaborative, ask them for feedback in every stage of releasing a feature. We need to communicate frequently and be ready to adopt the customer’s mindset in whatever we do.
6. Business agility comes from measuring the right things
I am a firm believer of Peter Drucker’s quote, “If you can't measure it, you can't improve it.” He expands this to, “You can't manage what you can't measure.” Drucker means that you can't know whether you are successful unless success is defined and tracked.
I have used the AARRR metrics in my startup. AARRR stands for Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Referral, and Revenue. This made us understand what is important for the business, identify actionable outcomes, and in turn help our customers to meet their outcomes.
So, in summary, for organizations to survive, they should be able to adapt to business agility in order; otherwise, they will be led to extinction.
As Leon Megginson said, “It’s not the strongest species (companies) that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”
Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.