Four Essential Elements of Business Agility

Whatever hurdles get thrown at your business, agility is key to dealing with them effectively - this applies across all industries from manufacturing to IT to local councils and across all business types from small non-profits to large multi-nationals.

This article takes you through four essential steps to achieving business agility...

What is Business Agility?

Agility is a way of introducing a change, monitoring the effect of the change and adapting accordingly. It gives a lightweight governance model that allows you to react much more quickly than traditional approaches: the key is to be able to adapt and learn rather than tie yourself up in top-heavy processes and fixed ideas.

Benefits of Business Agility

The benefits of being agile are clear:

  • adapt quickly: you will be able to capitalise on changing conditions - be the first to market and take regulatory changes in your stride.
  • stop fearing change: being able to respond quickly takes the stress out of change so you can embrace it, not fear it.
  • innovate, innovate, innovate: you will continuously develop new products and processes so you can constantly improve efficiency and stay one step ahead of your competitors.

1: Plan, But Not Too Much...

It is a myth that "being agile" means you do not need a plan. However, effective agile planning is more about outcomes and ongoing refinement than about getting the detail right up front. The key here is "just in time" so you always know what you are doing but leave the future flexible. By working towards an objective and refining it rather than sticking to a fixed design, you free up your teams to innovate and optimise the solution step by step.

2: Take Baby Steps

Do not try to do everything at once - achieving perfection is impossible and you will add delay after delay chasing it. Taking incremental "baby steps" will let you release often, maintain momentum and allow stakeholders to have input throughout - the solution will evolve over time and always be in the best possible shape to support your business.

3: Fail Early!

Allowing failure is paramount to helping your teams innovate and take on responsibility. A team that is afraid to fail will stagnate and wait to be told what to do. By testing continuously and allowing low value projects to fail early, you concentrate effort on activity that will add value. You also build a set of building blocks that may be useful when the market or business environment changes.

4: Collaborate & Support

All stakeholders must work together for an agile approach to be truly effective. This will allow the business to focus on an achievable set of objectives rather than pulling in different ways (see also Three Simple Ways to Improve Productivity). True collaboration also helps remove the fear of failure, allowing your teams to perform even better.

Managing Agile Transformations

Agile processes are easy to run, but agile transformations typically need a shift in business mind-set and can can be challenging. Two common hurdles we find are:

  • fear of change: agile outcomes are seen as less certain than those backed by lengthy plans and business cases. The best way of tackling this is to review just how many outcomes predicted previously were fully realised - no plan is ever perfect and the best plan in the world will not be able to cope with changing environments and needs.
  • empires & siloes: employees in long-established businesses have set ways of working that they want to protect. Agile transformations are initially seen as a threat to the status-quo and it is important to manage people carefully to show that everybody will play an important role in future.

The most successful way to manage an agile transformation is to work with an external advisor - dedicated agile coaches have experienced the challenges you face and it is often more politically acceptable for a consultant than somebody internal to recommend a major change.

Next Steps

Whether you need help fine-tuning your processes or are setting out on a full agile transformation, The Peak Consultancy is here to help you through the process.

Our expertise and experience will help make the process as smooth as possible, avoiding common pit-falls and minimising distruption to other business activities.

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