Uncovering agility the right way
Posted Thursday, April 21 2016 at 17:07
Becoming a more agile business takes effort, and for large corporations this is often a difficult and daunting challenge.
Meanwhile they must watch young, headline-hitting companies rise quickly while seeming to target trends spot-on every time and experience success after success.
There can be a sense of ‘not waving, but drowning’ for businesses that feel bogged down by an innovation cycle underpinned by old, inflexible processes.
This is a problem. We all know that continuous innovation can be difficult for large, established companies where longstanding processes have become difficult to break down and streamline.
And while the majority of organisations recognise the need for agility, many struggle to embed it in their operations.
Still, ‘difficult’ is different from ‘impossible’ and there are many points within a business where agile thinking can be used to simplify and speed up operations.
Spotting and acting on opportunities for even the smallest improvement in business processes, from resource planning to product and service delivery, can add up to a major contribution to the bottom line.
The first steps to becoming more agile must be taken by decisions makers in the boardroom with the power and oversight to spearhead change.
But only the first steps. The innovators that make a difference are frequently found outside the board, and increasingly in finance departments that have gained more complete view of what’s happening across the enterprise.
Large companies may be tempted to look at what smaller, successful start-ups do to foster innovation but that approach is usually unrealistic on a large scale with the systems they have in place, and also unnecessary. Instead they should be looking to make their existing processes more agile.
Few would disagree that larger businesses operate quite differently from start-ups, and it only makes sense that they approach agility in a way that suits their operating model.
Forbes contributor Mike Maddock recently argued just this, likening companies to engines and saying that large organisations should focus on fine-tuning and incremental innovation rather than trying to invent new products, services or systems that risk being limited by their often antiquated processes.
Put another way, you can’t bolt an agile process or product onto a system that isn’t agile and expect either to thrive.
Established players will be better served by applying some discrete pockets of agile thinking to their operations with a view to making the organisation more agile on the whole over time.
One business we work with had a widely diverse payment and purchasing base that was slowing down transactions, an issue that affected both the company and its customers.