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An Introduction to Agile Business

Jun 23, 2020 | Digitalization Trends, Organization Effectiveness

Have you ever wondered how companies like Google, Facebook, Apple and  Twitter reached their current status in just few years? How these  companies manage to remain at the forefront of competition? What about  them makes them stand apart from the rest? And why is it that they  emerge out successfully amidst uncertainty and rapidly changing external  environment?

 

The answer to all the above questions is – these are agile businesses.  They respond effectively and quickly to the changes. They exhibit  flexibility. They adapt swiftly without losing momentum. They don’t  hesitate in deviating from the proven methods of doing things. Rather  they do what a situation demands them to.

There was a time when financial competence of an organization was  sufficient to obtain competitive advantage. In fact, it swamped all  other organizational attributes and was considered the single most  important resource to survive, sustain and grow. However, that was a  decade ago.

New age businesses proved that change was long due and financial  competence is just one aspect. And organizations needed to break away  from the assumption of achieving sustainable competitive advantage  merely on the basis of financial competence. They need to develop  agility and make it a part of their day-to-day operations.

Business Agility

But what does agility mean? And how can they achieve it ? Business agility refers to the ability of an organization to respond rapidly to the market changes as a matter of routine. It’s an ongoing process of understanding and responding to external and internal changes. Agility is about achieving fluidity  so much so that a business can deal with crisis at any time, without  losing the momentum. It’s about obtaining sustainability every now and  then.

Agility has been around for decades. Previously, it referred to  nimbleness in IT development. But over the years, it developed into a  full-fledged concept, which means achieving nimbleness and flexibility  in all business processes and functions as a matter of daily routine.

What is an Agile Business?

An agile business is the one that:

  • has cultivated the capability of responding to changing circumstances 
  • in an effective, sustainable and timely manner 
  • on a continuous basis 
  • without deviating from its core mission and vision 

An agile business exhibits following characteristics:

  1. Adaptability

Ability to adapt to the circumstances, and that too quickly, is one of  the most essential attributes of an agile business. Not only is this  displayed by the top management but it has to be an organization-wide  scenario. Adaptability is not restricted to its literal meaning; rather  it extends to simultaneous planning and execution. To expedite the  process, organizations must get rid of sequential planning which is time  consuming and rigid. When you plan and execute simultaneously, you fail  fast and know what works and what doesn’t in a shorter time period. It  encourages correction, adjustments or modifications along the way.

  1. Change Management

Change management has been the talk of the business town for several  years. Literally, it’s an approach to transition an organization and its  resources to a desired state in future. In a broader sense, it’s about  predicting changes in the business environment, building strategy to  manage change, making necessary arrangements to foster change at an  organization-wide level and training employees helping them upgrade  their skills to work in a changed environment.

However, previously change management was not an ongoing process. But  in today’s scenario, organizations need to devise effective and ongoing  education and training to develop ‘dynamic capability’ among employees,  to

  • Sense opportunities and threats 
  • Predict change on their own 
  • Come up with new ideas to deal with instability in business environment 
  • Solve problems 
  • Innovate 
  1. Infrastructure Elasticity

Infrastructure elasticity refers to the ability of the existing  system to bear additional workload when needed. The term, more often, is  used to explain the flexibility and ability of hardware resources.  However, in this context elasticity means the ability to

  • Shift and pool resources when required 
  • Manage resources to ramp-up and ramp-down production almost immediately 
  • Optimization of resources to support dynamism 
  • Find ways to accommodate unforeseen needs 

An agile business doesn’t pursue elasticity just for the sake of it.  They pursue it to manage volatility and uncertainty. And this is what  gives agile businesses a distinctive character.

  1. Market Responsiveness

Market responsiveness is the ability of a company to respond  effectively and efficiently in a timely manner to diverse needs of  customers, environmental changes and competition. The model requires  strategic implementation of business intelligence, which in turn is a  process of gathering data and transforming it into meaningful  information.

The change in the business environment today is rapid and largely  unpredictable. Therefore, the risk to operate in a volatile economy is  augmented. In such a scenario, an organization cannot rely on a fixed  strategy to respond to the changes in the market. The processes need to  be fluid enough to accommodate changes. Market responsiveness is an  essential characteristic that businesses need to exhibit to stay at the  forefront of competition.

  1. Innovation

Innovation is at the core of Google, Facebook and Apple. They  innovate more frequently than any other company across the world. And  this is what helped achieve them a different image altogether. Agility  is also about ensuring that there are enough innovations to offer  customers something that they aren’t even expecting.

These organizations encourage their employees to spend time on issues  and subjects that are close to their heart. In fact, they have  innovators’ clubs inspiring them to pursue their interests and come up  with new business ideas around them. Google allows their employees to  spend 10% of the paid time on personal interests. They are motivated to  experiment and fail fast. An organization has to develop a culture of  innovation to be agile and respond to customers’ needs even before they  realize.

  1. Free Flow of Communication

Most traditional organizations have only one-way communication, which is  from top to bottom. Highly successful organizations ensure free flow of  communication – top-to-bottom and bottom-to-top. Most agile businesses  will agree that a clear and open communication is an important practice.  Information flows easily in both directions and gets to decision makers  rapidly. Agile organizations differ from traditional companies where  interaction among employees is generally restricted.  It is typically  from executives to team members. And this is probably why the former is  able to manage things better and faster.

Different companies may display agility in different ways at different  times. But the true power lies in making agility a daily practice,  irrespective of the nature, size and area of operations of a business.  Agility is not a new concept that still needs to be explored or  experimented with. Rather organizations need to put in a serious thought  into it and develop a strategy to practice it in their daily  operations.

 

 

 

The article is Written By “Prachi Juneja” and Reviewed By Management Study Guide Content Team. MSG Content Team comprises experienced Faculty Member, Professionals and Subject Matter Experts/ 2018

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