Let’s be honest; you’re probably not lying awake at night wondering how you can get some Business Agility at your company.
But you are probably lying awake, wondering how you can deal with the gaps you face in your organization. Gaps such as:
- How do we fix our quality problems?
- How can we get more done?
- How do we build a strategy that makes sense?
- How can we execute that strategy?
You know… minor gaps like that.
So while you’re not asking for business agility per se, it just so happens that business agility can help your organization address those gaps.
And that, in a nutshell, is why you love business agility.
The problem comes when you dig a little deeper and realize what you have to do to adopt business agility and address some of those gaps. Those changes are difficult enough to sour your opinion on business agility.
With all that in mind, here’s a look at why you should love business agility and some reasons why you may hate it if it weren’t for the benefits it provides.
Reasons to love business agility
The world continues to be a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous place. Your organization can no longer afford to ignore these conditions. At the same, you can’t address the situation with highly detailed plans that don’t allow for revision as conditions change.
Most benefits of business agility come about because of changing how you operate to react to the changing business environment.
Respond to change
When your organization adopts business agility, you can react and respond to threats and opportunities in the marketplace.
Instead of crafting long-term plans that people in your organization are loath to change, you build strategies that guide decision-making and allow for more frequent decisions based on the latest information.
Deliver value frequently
Business agility helps you to decide whether or not to deliver new functionality based on what helps your customers solve the problems they face. This customer-centric decision-making ensures that you build only the things you need.
When you combine customer-centric decision-making with operational flow that ensures the processes you follow are as efficient as possible, you’re able to build the right thing quickly and efficiently.
That means when delivering new functionality is the right thing to do, you can deliver it quickly in small increments that provide immediate benefit to your customers.
Sometimes delivering new functionality is not the best way to help your customers solve their problems. Business agility ensures that you make timely decisions on the best actions based on helping customers and adding value to your business.
Sometimes delivering new features brings the most value. Sometimes removing features adds the most value. Sometimes you can get the most value from changing how you interact with your customers.
Competitive advantage comes from helping your customers solve their most pressing problems faster and at a reasonable price. Organizations that respond to changing conditions quickly and deliver value incrementally have a leg up on their competitors.
You’re able to adjust your activities to take advantage of new opportunities that arise. Customer focus allows you to identify these opportunities. Timely decision-making enables you to make course corrections, and agile software development allows you to deliver small increments quickly.
Business agility also provides a competitive advantage in how you deal with feedback. Your teams seek relevant, timely, consistent feedback from your customers, users, and stakeholders. That feedback either assures you that your solution is on the right track or guides you to make your solution more fit-for-purpose.
This kind of agility helps you to outpace less nimble competitors who insist on sticking to their firmly set plans and ignore what feedback they receive.
An additional benefit that comes from business agility results from organizational changes you need to make to realize the other advantages.
Adopting business agility drives your enterprise to break down organizational silos and create high-performing teams, which encourages a great deal more cross-functional collaboration.
Increased collaboration leads to greater creativity and more effective problem-solving thanks to a cross-pollination of ideas from a range of diverse perspectives.
When you have people working together to solve the correct problems with the most effective solutions, your employees are engaged, you delight your customers, and your enterprise wins.
Reasons to hate business agility
Many organizations have well-established and fixed ways of working. In contrast, other companies have looser approaches where the ways of working can be informal and reactive.
To adopt business agility, you must have a sustainable culture where your organization’s mindset effectively adapts to a complex, ever-changing business environment. This starts with your leadership team.
This change can be hard.
You don’t know why you’re adopting business agility
Adopting business agility without understanding why you’re doing it is a sure path to disappointment. If you don’t know the problem you’re hoping business agility will solve, you won’t see the benefits described above.
Without a clear problem to solve, you’ll end up adopting business agility because “it’s a good thing to do” or because your competitors are doing it. In those situations, you risk half-heartedly implementing a bunch of practices that have no real impact on your enterprise. You end up with business agility “theater.”
When you don’t have a clearly defined problem you’re solving, you’ll also find it difficult to ask people to change. People don’t like to change, but it can be easier to convince them if you provide a good reason. Without that good reason, you’ll have people check out of the change or practice malicious compliance to show their displeasure.
You don’t consider your context
Every enterprise is different. Every team is different. People are different. Those differences raise enough variability that it’s not possible to use the same approach to adopt business agility in every situation.
Your approach needs to account for the context in which you’re working.
That doesn’t mean that frameworks are worthless, and it doesn’t mean there’s no value in finding out how other enterprises adopted business agility.
Start with a framework and understand the reasons for that framework’s structure. Even more important, understand how the characteristics of your enterprise may drive specific decisions on how you implement that framework.
You can learn from others’ experiences, but you must factor in the similarities and differences between your environment and theirs.
To best address this risk, consider how your context factors into your approach to adopting business agility. These questions can help with your assessment:
- What do you do well that you’re proud of?
- What are your challenges?
- What do you want to change?
- If you could change one thing, what would it be?
Start from a point you’re proud of and can build on, and then determine the one or two things you should change first to see the most significant benefit.
You underestimate how difficult change is
Adopting business agility requires significant change.
The relationships between departments change. Siloed teams transform into cross-functional teams. Responsibilities change. Work processes change.
All those changes involve people, and depending on their outlook, many people could view those changes as being done to them.
For these changes to be successful, you must help people work through the transition. You need to help the people involved in the change see the benefits they will realize. You need to speak to what’s in it for them.
Addressing the complexity of change requires someone with the tools to make the change successful. That’s usually someone with a combination of positional authority and skill in working with people and teams.
You expect the change will end
The world will not stop changing. Your customer’s needs will not stop changing. You probably don’t want your enterprise to stop changing.
Likewise, you’re never going to be done adopting business agility. Adopt business agility properly, and you’ll always be looking for ways to improve.
You face an enormous risk if you view adopting business agility as a project. Set out on a six-month effort to adopt Agile, and you’ll likely end up with a bunch of “check the box” processes that result in no real value. Therefore, it’s essential that you help management see Agility as continuous improvement. Agility is more like growing a “learning” mindset. It’s like becoming a great chef or an athlete. The goal is to invest energy and time in getting better and never to stop obsessing over improving your game.
Balancing the benefits and risks
Whenever you undertake a significant change, it’s essential that you understand why you’re doing it and the risks you face. We wanted to give you a balanced picture of what your enterprise can gain from adopting business agility and what may stand in your way.
Ultimately, it’s your decision, but from our experience, when you address the risks properly, the benefits your enterprise experiences over the long run make adopting business agility a wise choice.
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