What does it mean to be agile?
Well, agility means flexibility, as well as the ability to take both successes and failures in stride. It means acting quickly, be it in implementing solutions or identifying problems. And, above all, to be agile means to be innovative and adaptable.
The widespread attraction of agile methodology raises enticing possibilities. For instance, what if a company could achieve positive returns with 50 percent more of its new-product introductions? What if twice as many workers were more emotionally attached to their jobs? What if marketing departments could increase customer inquiries by 40 percent? And what if human resource departments could recruit 60 percent more of their highest-priority targets? The answers to these questions all lie within the adoption of agile processes.
Whether you’re new to agile methodology or a veteran, one thing is clear: once your organization has adopted this way of thinking, your processes are sure to change for the better.
Entrepreneurship isn’t just for the individual anymore. Across the world, large organizations are fine-tuning their methods to be more flexible and mimic entrepreneurial methods. After all, entrepreneurs need to be many things. They bear a lot of responsibility when it comes to delivering upon consumers’ expectations and often wear many hats in the businesses they create. This philosophy can be applied to large organizations, not just individuals. In fact, we’ve recommended in the past that corporations adapt the entrepreneurial mindset in order to thrive – not merely survive – in today’s digitally competitive landscape.
But how can a corporation be agile? Further, why bother at all? After all, couldn’t ‘agile’ be just another buzzword that ultimately lacks real-world impact?
Well, let’s examine the term itself. For businesses, the word ‘agile’ first came from the world of software development and then worked its way into project management. Further, its core tenets were recorded in a 2001 Manifesto. In a 2016 Harvard Business Review article, authors Darrell K. Rigby, Jeff Sutherland, and Hirotaka Takeuchi adapted the Manifesto by prioritizing four values and principles as their base for strategy and innovation:
Indeed, the call for being agile focuses on valuing a collaborative mindset, human interaction, adaptability, and a solid product. But, like any new methodology, the uncertainty of taking on these nebulous processes can frighten some potential adopters away.
Right now, many organizations walk the line between the known and unknown; the exploitation of existing, efficient, and predictable markets and the exploration of uncertain, ambiguous, and potentially high-growth opportunities. Like an entrepreneur, an investment in exploration asks the user to be willing to fail and more importantly, be ready to learn and act upon the knowledge gained. Here, agile principles establish their value. Rather than just referring to speed or experimentation, agility involves adopting a set of priorities as the basis for responding creatively and strategically shifting uncertain situations while also providing analysis. And it’s not just small organizations boarding the agility train. Large firms like SAP, General Electric, and Coca-Cola have invested in ongoing innovative efforts that rely upon the willingness to act, fail, learn and position themselves for reinvention.
Yet, while the ability to be agile manifests itself in many ways, remember that it isn’t just a cost-cutting technique to improve the company’s workflow and reduce expenditures. Further, agile principles cannot be implemented selectively. For instance, top-performing teams within an organization cannot adopt agile principles and function when the rest of the organization continues on as a top-down bureaucracy. Like any good habit, agility becomes more of a part of a company’s ecosystem through time-tested experience and practice. An organization cannot simply mimic agile principles; it must be agile.
What exactly does it mean when an organization chooses to become agile?
Firstly, agile values and principles influence and allow organizations to adapt to an ever-changing and volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous customer base. Though it might seem difficult to adopt – especially if you work at a large organization – like any principle, agility can be applied through small steps rather than big, sweeping changes. For instance, Forbes recommends beginning by forming small, autonomous teams that continuously work to deliver value to the end user, potential or currently existing. The result of these squads is a healthy competitive atmosphere and camaraderie within the newly-agile organization. The squads then actively and constantly initiate communication, interactions, and coordination with other teams to tackle cumbersome obstacles that can hinder agility-based workflows. These hindrances can include continuous, unplanned project scope growth and greater time and commitment requirements.
Ultimately, agile principles can connect small, high-performance teams, which improves visibility and transparency across teams and consumers. This helps to transform the old, vertical organization dynamic into one that has the same objective – delivering value to consumers.
Further, agile corporate entrepreneurship boasts imagination, openness, and adaptability in ways that unleash their people’s full potential, experimentation, learning and collaboration. To sustain this meaningful innovation and transformation in corporate settings, leaders need to know when and how to analyze, sense, and respond to ever-changing situations and diverse people – and most importantly, learn from their actions. To do requires greater speed, flexibility, and practice than many of these organizations’ leaders have previously deployed.
Agile corporate entrepreneurship also encourages changes in the mental models, strategic and executional activities and measurement frameworks of established firms. Agile modes of working are a wise investment of leadership resources due to the many opportunities that arise from more thoroughgoing innovation and firm reinvention to new market entry and increased competitiveness.
At the end of the day, agile is all about innovation. And these days, more and more companies work in highly dynamic environments. So, not only are new products and services necessary, but innovation occurs in functional processes, especially due to the rapid spread of new software tools. Companies that create and sustain an environment where agile methodology blossoms and grows find that teams can produce more innovations in both of these categories.
At Stefanini, we employ agile thinking in a variety of ways. We are co-creators with our clients, and that approach is, of course, driven by our flexible, entrepreneurial mindset. For instance, our Agile Application Services are designed to help you overcome any challenges by adopting agile practices that help scale and drive collaboration in dynamic, complex environments, as well as rapidly develop applications and product features while clearing your business’ backlogs. Changing cultural patterns and processes is an inevitable result of a successful agile integration as there is no exact recipe for the ever-changing digital environment that we now witness. We can guide you through the process with agile services and consulting. Thanks to our agile principles, we maintain a Growth-focused Mindset that we want to help you start utilizing too.
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