One thing is certain. Over the next 12 – 24 months, things are going to change for the British business community in a big way. Brexit. And where March 2019 seems to be marked with a big red question mark on most of our Calendars, the focus seems to only remain on How and When. Dangerous territory. Despite attempted predictions and imaginings on what the world will look like post-Brexit – there’s unfortunately no clear-cut blue-print that plots the state of the economic world, until we actually get there. And that doesn’t fill many businesses with confidence. Especially the smaller, high-growth businesses just setting out on their journey and facing the need to strategise, build, plan.
And perhaps, for lack of a better example, Sun Tzu’s analogy in his book The Art of War has relevance even today as the global economy prepares for a substantially big event that will inevitably hold long-term knock-on effects on most nations around the world. Sun Tzu declared that strategy in war was not necessarily planning in the sense of working through an established list, but instead required quick and appropriate responses to changing conditions. Sound familiar?
Business Agility: The latest piece of jargon that floats around board rooms and blogs. And yes, it makes it onto ours as a direct result of what we see in the conversations we’re having with clients, partners, prospectives and the rest of the business community. And speak to any Product or Project Manager and they’ll tell you – Agility has been around for a while – but is only recently being embraced as less of a methodology, and more of an overarching business strategy. And while much of the productivity in the United Kingdom can only be addressed by longer term changes like improvements in education, vocational training and changing cultures that embrace change, there is so much that can be done to enable SMEs to become more agile, and therefore more able, to benefit from change today.
We share 5 ways to start getting your business agile today.
1. Change your Mind
Change is a big part of becoming successful. And it’s accelerating at an alarming pace. If you’re not already embracing Change within your organisation, the time has come for you to do just that. We know that change is difficult – for some, apprehension to embrace change may be shrouded by a cloak of laziness, for others, their apprehension stems from simply not having the right processes and plans in place to handle whatever fluctuations come their way. According to an Accenture study which explores the best practices that leading companies adopt to drive business agility, the mark of a truly successful leader are those who have a more nuanced view of uncertainty—seeing it as an opportunity and a threat—whereas others tend to see only positive or negative. Getting your mind focussed on being OK with change – and not feeling like you’re relinquishing control, or doomed to fail, is the first step to building a change culture that empowers your teams to adapt, bend and flow with market fluctuations, customer demands and economic opportunity.
2. Build the right team
Whether you’re the leader of a small business with high-growth potential, or you’re a successful executive that heads up teams all around the world – you’ll be faced with the same challenge: How to have the right skill, in the right place, delivering value back into your organisation. Whether you’ve traditionally done this by filling roles, or you follow a project-based workforce model – you could have all the best intentions in the world, and stand in front the biggest opportunity that will catapult you to the next economic stratosphere – but without the right team – from the floor to the ceiling – you are doomed to fail. Embracing Change is not about having that innate acceptance of the uncertain – for some, it needs to be learnt. However, for all – it’s about being ok with the idea that things will not always remain the same, and be done in the same way. That the business of today may be completely different to the business of tomorrow. Rigid, “it’s how I’ve always done it” strategies take a back seat, and fluid operational acrobatics means that you will seldom face a situation that you cannot handle.
3. Sanity over Vanity
This is a tough one – and we get that. You’ve built your business and you’re proud of what you’ve done. And when Change comes along and dictates something contradictory, accepting that, and changing your outlook can be somewhat tough. That’s why business agility starts with small steps. Instead of looking towards the marathon ahead of you, break things down into smaller sprints with clear targets set. You are probably not going to execute a massive transition overnight, but small, incremental actions mean that you are focussed on your goal, and you have a plan to get there. Smaller, bite-size chunks mean that you are able to tweak them as you go along – keeping you in control, but remaining completely flexible according to what is being demanded of you. Set yourself (and your teams) realistic targets and KPIs – forget about what looks good and focus on what is good. Sanity metrics tell us that we are doing the right thing and whether our actions are moving us closer or further away from our goals. And sometimes, the smallest decisions are the most difficult ones – but integrity far outweighs ego, and that will be evident in the results your business delivers.
4. Find your 80/20 balance
The Pareto Principle states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes – and when it comes to business agility – it’s no different. When your business is growing, changing and maturing, there are a lot of options, not enough time and not enough resource to do them all. And sometimes there are some difficult choices to be made. You cannot physically do everything. That’s when the Pareto Principle, or 80/20 rule, comes into play. Agility is a value-driven method where success is measured on value created. It focuses on the creation of working solutions that create the best return on investment. So, when you find yourself trying to figure out the best way to get to everything, take the time to thoroughly look at your work, your teams, your customers, your processes and identify the optimum 20% that delivers the most value into your organisation. Optimise the amount of “work not done” to reach your objectives. Prioritising every action and task based on the amount of value it’s going to deliver back into your organisation very quickly points out the must-haves from the nice-to-haves, and gets your business focussed on delivery, and flexibility – freeing yourself, and your teams, up for new opportunity.
5. Get Retro and Huddle
The Agile principle in Project Management includes a lot of methodology activities – but the one most valuable that is often translated through to general business activity, is the morning huddle and retrospective. But just before you imagine a campfire and a coordinated effort in singing your favourite folk song – the Huddle is so much more than feeling warm and fuzzy. A Huddle, in the Agile world, is a daily stand-up – where you and your team get together with each person in the team having a turn to share what they did yesterday that added value, what they’re planning to do today that adds value, and any barriers they face that restrict them from delivering what they need to do. The Huddle lasts no longer than 5-10 minutes and is an opportunity to become grounded, focussed and engaged as a united team. A Retrospective, on the other hand, is an event that happens less often – perhaps monthly – where you as a team look back on the progress over the past month and review what worked, what didn’t and note any improvements for your next phase of business. Morning Huddles and Retrospectives are a great way to build cohesion on your team, and are a great way to get rid of unread, unnecessary email communication chains that distract rather than propel forward.
If you recognise that it’s time to prepare for change, and you need help to get your teams aligned, your strategy focussed and your targets set, then we would be more than willing to help you get there. After all, we want you to succeed, just as much as you do. So why not tap into our years of experience and operational stability that epitomises business agility, and get a head start?