How Agile Are You Really?

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How Agile Are You Really?

The Idea: Speed is transforming most industries, and agility is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity. Recent research by Deloitte and McKinsey uncovered that 90 percent of senior leaders highly value organizational agility, but only 10 percent see their team as agile. This gap begs the question: Why are so many firms inflexible?

Some context: in 2016, Klaus Schwab published a book titled The Fourth Industrial Revolution after coining the phrase in a 2015 Foreign Affairs article. “The Fourth Industrial Revolution” describes the phase of history following the Automation Revolution and states that after humans automate our technology, we seek to integrate it into our lives, our jobs, and even into ourselves. Just a few years after the term took center stage at 2016 Davos, it returned as the primary theme of this year’s event. Change is happening and happening quickly, and its impacts every part of our lives.

A generation ago, we believed we could anticipate future moves. We now know we must practice contingency planning and course-correction as we encounter competitive challenges. The extent of this change means we must all get comfortable not knowing the answers to many of the questions surrounding us. But building an agile mindset is of a shockingly low priority with most organizations. In a recent study conducted by Frost and Sullivan for Pegasystems, 20 percent of executives surveyed said they view business agility central in their business strategy and only 43 percent call themselves adopters of agility.

Many organizations who had not adopted an agile approach appeared to be risk averse. This same study stated 4 of 10 respondents lack experience with agile methods. Additionally, they lacked leadership support and believed agile practices cost too much for it to be worth the tradeoff. Meanwhile, those who adopted an agile mindset saw noticeable increases in revenue, profit, customer satisfaction and retention.

What is the magic of agility?

Over the last few years, Walmart has modeled how agility is an enabler for transformation. When they acquired in 2016, they invited Jet’s founder Marc Lore to lead the Wal-Mart digital platform. Within a year, they infused an entrepreneurial mindset into their traditional model. Wal-Mart now embraces speed, experimentation and agility, driving stronger consumer experiences, loyalty and growth. When you are large and flexible you become even more dangerous to your competition.

Three Ideas to Become More Agile.

  1. Consider creating a rogue “war-room” mentality within your organization. Google historically allowed 20 percent of their associates time to be dedicated to new ideas, pet projects and their own innovations. Are you courageous enough to embrace this philosophy? 
  2. Agile teams embrace faster decisions through “scrums” (daily communications with flexible reassessment), “sprints” (short term projects to test new items, processes and improvements), and “stand-up meetings” (focusing on updates and action steps). These strategies are meant to generate an entrepreneurial mindset and eliminate wasted time.  
  3. Do you encourage your team to make quick decisions, lead process improvements, and eliminate outdated tasks within your organization? Agile cultures don’t have the time (nor bandwidth) to lead all change initiatives from the top down. Agility requires trust and it must be practiced on a granular level. Can your leaders pull the trigger on decisions without three levels of approval?

A recent Forbes article states that we can’t get comfortable once we’ve tasted success. “The world moves way too fast and technology is too much of a game-changer to ever think you can settle into one way of approaching your business…..If you look at your business as an experiment, you will never fail: you’re just working on the right formula.”

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