The ability to rapidly adapt to new challenges and emerging competition isn’t just about survival; it’s competitive advantage. With disruption now a regular business condition, the challenge is to de-risk change and to get ahead so the competition reacts to you – not the other way around.
For a long time, organisational change was likened to the transition a caterpillar undertakes during metamorphoses into a butterfly. But the metaphor is wrong – the lifecycle of a lepidopteran is predictable. That’s not what business agility is about.
Change is happening faster, with greater complexity across more dimensions and technology is bringing things tomorrow that we haven’t dreamt of yet. We need to be ready.
When it comes to competitive advantage, the winners will out-change the competition. Organisations need to embrace change, move rapidly, be decisive and anticipate what’s coming. They need to accelerate their programmes to reach strategic objectives. While this may already seem enough, businesses must also remain stable and relevant to customers, ride out disruption and continue to be profitable. This is achieved through a customer-centric approach and an understanding of how technology is changing and enabling new opportunities. Many new technologies have such a low barrier to entry that tomorrow’s competitor may not even exist today.
Research from the Columbia Business School found that only 10 of the 2300 businesses they looked at managed to grow their businesses by 5% or more, year on year, over a ten-year period. This highlights the difficulty of continual organisational growth. The researcher found companies with a stable organisational structure were able to adapt to change, innovate rapidly and remain relevant to customers, all while maintaining profitability.
What is needed is a balance between stability and agility. Too much stability, and your business is unable to adapt to the changes around it. But the lack of a stable core can make it difficult to remain resolute and stick to a strategy. The most adaptable companies are highly collaborative, aren’t afraid of taking risks and they are willing to learn fast and be brave. They are also open to collaborating with others to ensure they are getting the best advice on how to navigate the change.
The focus on collaboration and innovation isn’t confined to a specific part of the business. Innovation flows from ideas and those ideas can come from anywhere in a company. Creating a way for those ideas to be safely shared and considered is critical.
Many businesses think that a shift to agile means abandoning your corporate strategy. But that’s not the case – rather than setting a strategy for three years or more, companies need to dust off the documents and review them regularly to ensure they are relevant. While long-term plans are important, the journey to achieving those goals can change and that may mean letting go of some ways of doing things in order to continue progressing.
So, where does this begin? By starting at the customer, it’s possible to better focus on the real goals rather than internal processes. This allows businesses to use a human-centred design approach to home in on customers’ pain points and then deliver incremental changes that bring them the most benefits.
Ultimately, key to becoming an agile organisation is to start your change journey with the customer in mind. Be the disruptor and not the disrupted – don’t be scared to reinvent part of your business to create something new and better. Finally, embrace collaboration so that everyone is part of the journey.
AgileSHIFT® helps prepare everyone across an
organisation for transformational change. This offering provides staff with the
knowledge and guidance to be able to understand, engage with and influence
change by embracing agile and lean ways of working. For more information on how
we can deliver this course in-house to your people, contact us today on +65 6818