by Nigel Peters0
Why Business Agility Matters In 2016
2016 started off with a bang here in Alium – no it wasn’t the sound of New Year’s Eve fireworks in our new office building (we had to move across to St Paul’s as part of the new Bank Station underground modernisation project) but the speed at which the market and companies reacted on the first day back on 4th January.
I see that this was reflected in the latest jobs data from the Recruitment and Employment confederation. Great for Alium and very positive to see some increased action after what I would describe as a languid last quarter brought about by China, commodity prices, Brexit, the oil and gas slump and a myriad of wider factors. The Bank Of England has also now renewed its forecasts for growth in 2016 (from 2.7% to 2.4%) and a rate rise seems ever further away. Mark Carney’s speech last month said ‘The world is weaker and UK growth has slowed’
So what for the year ahead? Well I think that some of the inaction I saw in the last quarter achieved what you would expect - little or nothing. With so many variable business factors looming and increasing uncertainty, any confidence that remains must be used to drive your business forwards – quickly and effectively – doing nothing achieves nothing. So my advice for the year ahead is to create room for investment and be agile….but how?
What Does Business Agility Look Like?
Business agility is about being able to move quickly when challenged, having the speed and flexibility to respond and adjust to change rapidly. But it is also about stability, having the structure and processes in place that reinforces stability and allows for speed and flexibility.
Some people might say that these two factors, speed and stability, contradict each other. Stability can suggest conservative, traditional and inflexible values, rather than the lean and responsive model that many of us think of when we talk about agile businesses. But looking at those organisations that have survived the recession and are now investing in growth - organisational stability provides a framework that supports this speed.
In a recovering economy, agile organisations are primed to take advantage of market opportunities, but equally able to respond to downturns by scaling back their operations, yet still focusing on core business goals.
What common characteristics do agile businesses have?
Is your organisation agile? If your company fits the profile below it would indicate that business agility is at the heart of your organisation.
Clear Goals And Objectives
Stability is created and reinforced by communicating clear goals for both the business and the individuals working within the organisation. Role clarity, measurable targets, well-defined company values and clearly communicated standards and core objectives, are all factors that create the foundations to build on within a business.
Another foundation stone that makes businesses more stable and agile. This is not about laying the blame for actions and results. Instead accountability in agile businesses is about understanding objectives and goals, taking responsibility for them, knowing how these will be measured and reported, having the authority to make decisions, and also having the processes in place to review and continuously learn from outcomes.
Learning and Innovation
Agile businesses learn from their successes and failures, and share their knowledge within the organisation. They look for innovation and ideas from other organisations, including those in other sectors, so can learn from external sources and use this knowledge in their own businesses. Agile businesses also listen to their employees however junior they may be; innovation can come from anywhere and these organisations have their ears and eyes open.
Quick Decision Making
Business leaders who can make important decisions quickly are a clear indicator of an agile business -when other factors are also in play. Quick decision-making avoids organisation paralysis, where the business is unable to move forward because the decision-making process is too convoluted; involves too many stakeholders; and has no defined timeframe. With ‘clear goals and objectives’, ‘accountability’ and ‘learning and innovation’ decision makers within an organisation should be well-equipped to make good decisions quickly and put them into action.
Adjusts Rapidly To Change
The final piece of the jigsaw is the ability for the whole organisation to adjust rapidly to change. Change is always a challenge for those businesses that do not support an agile model. If there is no top down innovation within an organisation, it is not surprising that employees resist change when it is thrust upon them. Change should be viewed as a positive by the entire organisation because it helps everyone achieve business and role-specific goals and objectives. An agile business will have systems in place to support change and get buy in from all stakeholders within the business.
Does your organisation fit this profile?
We will be exploring the subject of business agility in more detail in our blog throughout the year. If you would like to contribute your thoughts, experience or insight on this subject we would like to hear from you. Interim managers, change and transformation experts, and business leaders are all invited to get in touch with Rod McInnes to discuss opportunities for guest blog posts, or you can simply leave a comment below.