Most of us are facing the dilemma between huge opportunity or huge risk and with multiple global crises occurring everything is being rethought. And in some ways these crises have accelerated positive changes already underway, but its also a risk that things might deteriorate even further. With all this uncertainty its clear that agile organizations, those that are able to shift on a dime and pivot will likely not only ride out the storm but come out stronger.
Outside-In NOT Inside-Out
Start with “what” instead of “why” questions; “What” questions promote exploration and curiosity while “why” questions are more limited and focus on justifications. What are we here for? What's our purpose? From there you can ask the “how”; how can we draw on all the talents of our staff to achieve this? And what would we have to scrap, no holds barred?
And let's not follow the inside-out approach where the focus is on asking what is the business we are in and how we can double down to sell more of our stuff to customer to make more money off them. That mindset of exploitation will only lead to a path of maintaining status quo, which during times of crisis fails to generate opportunities. What's needed is the exact opposite, an exploratory mindset that focuses on the outside-in where anyone with a good idea can contribute. To gain the opportunities to succeed we need to be customer-centric, we need to really understand the voice of our customers; what do they need, and how can we meet that.
Business Agility Mindsets
To generate and execute on the opportunities that arise during a crisis we need business agility. Business Agility can be summed up in the core principles,
- Value Driven Obsession: delivering more value to customers; profits are the result, not the goal
- The Agile Team: work is done in small self-organizing teams, drawing on the full talents of those doing the work;
- Networks: less bureaucracy that is rich in a steep hierarchy of authority and more organizational structuring based on networks of competence.
Agile Business Culture
Too often the focus becomes on doing. If we just follow what the others are doing, we'll be able to transfer some of that success, or in less overt terms, let's examine what they do differently. Again, this echoes the inside-out mentality for exploitation. We need to be shifting the focus on how they think differently, how can we align our principles accordingly to break down our bureaucracy and promote a mindset of exploration. We need to promote an agile business culture of thinking versus doing.
Is It Really Agility or Is It Simply Technology?
Market driven innovations have become increasingly technology driven and it can be easily construed that is was the technology advancements, not Business Agility, that led to success. But is that really the case? Within our lifetime...
- we would spend hours, or even days, in libraries reading through encyclopedias and journals to research something. Now all that information is easily accessible through websites and apps. Sure, technology played a factor, but the real value generating opportunity was addressing the users need for information.
- we were able to reach people through phones when they were at home or in the office and that was about it. Now we can reach people anywhere, find and plan activities, invite others to join in, and much more. Again, the focus was not the technology, it was just the enabler, the success came from the interactions, how the user leveraged the technology to complete tasks of their daily life.
Using Principles to Be Purpose Driven
Using the three principles of Business Agility not only develops the capability for rapid innovation and motivates the team for success, they also instill a purpose within the organization that enables the “shift on a dime” mentality needed to create opportunities from crises; similar to our own journey of digital transformation.
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