From Here to Agility!! Lesser-known Facts that each organization needs to know

Business Agility is today a term that is fast becoming the need of the hour to survive in the disruptions caused by technology like broadband or natural like pandemic!

Now we all know a lot about why we need Business Agility but what is not well understood is the success of agility goes beyond strategy and is heavily dependent on execution at all levels.

The attempt in this blog is to share insights on some not so well recognized foundational issues that an organization needs to address in order to herald agility to their business

What is really needed?

Survive and thrive in conditions that threaten the very existence of even established leaders

Desperately Seeking Leaders!

Like in real estate we say it is Location, Location, Location, In Business Agility it is Leadership, Leadership, Leadership!!

If you look at Business agility efforts worldwide you will notice that the successful ones had major leadership involvement like Amazon or Apple and many other companies where the agility never took off further than the first kick-off meeting or press release, the lack of leadership involvement was main reason.

The common excuse from leaders is that they lack bandwidth and this is where the leaders need to be trained to leverage the broader layers of smart people under them and drive them with precise vision and mission that is built on empowerment and accountability in equal measures.

Delegate not because you want to but because you need to

Piggy backing on the prior point of leadership constraint of bandwidth comes the concept of delegation for many reasons as follows

  • The most important impediment that comes up between your business and agility is “delay” between touch time and wait time with longer wait times that are equally applicable to HR hiring, software development and release, strategical goal setting etc. and one of the primary causes of “delay” is lack of delegation of decision making at relevant levels.
  • The leader is not a super hero and need to respect the value of collective momentum to your business agility that comes from well aligned teams led by leaders at all levels. Remember even superheroes became “Avengers” to handle bigger challenges!
  • Provide the troops with purpose and clarity so they will take decisions as if the CEO is looking above their shoulders!

Get the right people behind the Agility wheels

  • Most organizations that are at the start of the agile journey do not understand the real purpose of the agile roles like Product Owner, Scrum Master etc. and end up making following mistakes
    • These roles are part of many hats worn by the technical team leads or project managers instead of being dedicated. For example, QA lead is also Scrum Master. BA is also Product Owner.
    • Scrum Master role is not part of the PMO world and lies in the development side with no management empowerment making this role mostly ornamental.
    • Leadership is not involved enough in the feedback loops to refine the agile process

Recognize the Agility Transformers within your own ecosystem.

The movie franchise “Transformers” delighted the kids and adults alike with the fantastic robots who can change shape as they liked from automobiles to humans and such and this is a great metaphor for agility how these creatures are able to leverage their available resources  to be many different products ranging from cars to planes and such!

Look at these examples from the Industry

  • Distilleries who in the wake of the pandemic driven demand quickly moved to making sanitizers as they already had the alcohol in abundance with them
  • Fuji Films when threatened with going out of business by the digital photography, quickly moved into skin care products using collagen that is a common ingredient for both the industries
    • Kodak on the other hand lost out to the digital photography because they did not think or act like Fujifilm.

So, if you are a leader whose business is finding hard to compete in one domain, take a hard look at how to salvage and leverage transferrable assets like skills, raw materials, channels etc. that can be useful in a different domain to keep the agility of the business intact.

Focus on the right side of the business – Don’t Boil the ocean with Business Agility

One common mistake is for traditional organizations is to embrace business agility as a corporate directive that applies to all kinds of work performed and this often backfires or do not take off as intended for the following reasons

  • The ROI from business agility efforts differs based on the type of work – Grow the Business (GTB) vs Run the Business (RTB)- that most organizational models have.
  • Typically, more work in the RTB (Run the Business) tends to be predictable have less skilled resources compared to GTB.
  • GTB experiments with new ideas and proto types and RTB makes these more operational and revenue generating at scale.

So, the better approach is to recognize that the key lever of Business agility is on the GTB side and start the agility initiatives with this group. if your organization does not have this kind of operating model, this may be the first step towards Business Agility you need to implement by having two distinct layers of GTB with a team of experts from domain and technology who can be the idea generators and proto type builders who can create MVPs quickly and glean feedback for refinement and come up with feasible solutions that are passed to the RTB team for scaled delivery.

Make innovation a habit and way of life

The primary challenge of fostering innovation is managing the risk and accountability that comes with innovation so these are few steps to help.

  • Create work culture that encourages risk taking while taking personal accountability for decisions
  • Cross functional teams that have the needed skills to make informed decisions
  • Foster hands-on leadership at all levels to truly lead the team thru challenges
  • Change Performance reviews to reward risks taken irrespective of setbacks or successes
  • Adopt an agile approach to incrementally release value to mitigate impact of Risk.

If you like what you read, please reach out to us for more detailed discussions so we can help you on your journey to be more nimble !

About the Author: Ram Kollengode is an agile coach and transformational consultant with more than 30 years of experience across a variety of sectors like Banking, Insurance, Telcom etc. Ram is passionate about agile mindset and enjoys time mentoring and training leaders on embracing agility