In my discussions with senior leaders, “business agility” is a highly coveted trait in an organisation.
During the pandemic, many leaders have mentioned to me that whatever plans they have made can just be changed in the following week.
There is a lot of abortive work experienced when plans keep changing every week.
The challenge for any organisation is still to serve its stakeholders well even when the business conditions keep changing.
However, some people just need certainty and find it hard to react quickly to changing trends.
Worse, they blame the organisation and say that leaders keep changing their ideas when they don’t realise that leaders are trying to adapt to different conditions.
I want to share ideas on how you can create useful change that overcomes the “analysis paralysis” of most people.
There are also ideas on how to really empower people to make rapid decisions quickly.
If you lead a team or work in a team and want to improve your business agility, read on.
Business Agility Test 1: Check how fast you can take an idea and go to market
Business agility means how fast you can take feedback and ideas and quickly implement changes to rapidly meet the needs of your stakeholders.
Some companies call this process “go-to-market”.
One of the ways of doing this easily is to ask your team future-forward questions that will open up ideas and possibilities:
“Suppose things are different right now and we are able to serve stakeholders well, what would be different and better in the way we work?”
Every time I ask a question like this, I will be able to get different ideas on what could be possible and worthy to be pursued.
After you think of an idea, always track how fast you can implement it.
Ideas are only good if you act on it and not when you generate it.
How we took an idea and go to market in 2 days
In our company, we recently ran a series of online programs on “How to create engaging online learning experiences and discussions”.
We delivered this program to 3,723 people in 15 countries. Over a period of 3 weeks, we conducted in 9 online sessions. This worked out to an average of 413 people in each session.
This ultra-successful program came about just within 2 days in a company meeting!
“We identified a challenge: a lot of presenters, trainers, educators, facilitators do not know how to effectively engage their audience.“– Kenneth Kwan
They did everything the same in the offline world and replicated it in the online world.
This was a huge mistake because the online world offers many interesting possibilities that can engage your audience.
Instead of talking about the problem, we talked about our perfect future for the situation and came out with a program to meet that need.
This program met all the challenges and difficulties our target people were facing and became a huge success that many participants loved.
Business Agility Test 2: Analyse how frequently your employees are experimenting with ideas
The problem is that with today’s rapidly changing climate, it is not possible to have everything figured out quickly.
What do you do when you have incomplete information to a situation or crisis? Would you sit and mull for many months in order to come up with a workable solution? Or could you take experimental steps to encourage rapid decision making?
In my book “Small Steps To Big Changes“, I listed two questions which you can use:
“Is it safe enough to try?”
“Is it good enough for now?”
The first question is designed to reduce the effects of risk. You can always try something smaller before taking a big step.
The second question is useful to combat the desire for perfection and lack of implementation. These questions help to overcome inertia and get things moving.
Follow-up after our training
We specifically focused on getting my participants to act on what they have learnt after attending “How to create engaging online learning experiences and discussions” program.
An educator got so inspired that she immediately ordered green paper, when she couldn’t get a green screen.
She even used her ironing board so that she can adjust the height of her laptop camera.
The result? She delivered a great virtual presentation (not to mention a beautiful virtual background as well).
Her image was clear and there were no issues with blurry images. I reviewed her video and loved her work.
Most people will usually wait for things to be perfect or demand adequate resources to even start.
In her case, she avoided perfection, got started and had amazing results.
Business Agility Test 3: Check how fast an idea passes through between layers of your organisation
If people in your team are not taking the initiative to make things better, I would highly ask you to relook at your reporting structure or layers of leadership.
I worked with a client recently and noticed that they faced a situation that happens in many other organisations.
One of the leaders saw a great training program that was extremely useful for a team that was located in many countries.
He urged them to sign up for it and made provision to register them quickly because the deadline was drawing close.
However, the Business Head started to ask why he was not informed nor updated of this leader’s decision.
Even though both the Business Head and leader both agreed that the program was really useful to their offices in other countries, the Head wanted to be informed before any instructions were given.
The leader thinks that his initiative went unappreciated.
The Business Head had told the leader that he was empowered to make decisions. After this episode, the leader thinks otherwise.
This incident that I knew happened in many other organisations but it just takes place in different forms.
Every layer of reporting will inevitably slow down your creative process and hinders initiative from staff.
My suggested principle
“If a staff acts in good faith in doing what he/she thinks is the best choice for the moment and has not negatively impacted the business, why not let them try?”
I have known leaders who say that they empower their staff but do not tolerate any mistakes or risks. How can one experiment without making mistakes or taking any risks?
How will a person feel safe to act on their own initiative?
Do not let too many processes, approval structures, or red tapes hinder your business agility.
How business agility affects your business and culture
Business agility is an important asset in any organisation. It largely stems from a company’s culture and leaders play a huge part in it.
Once we are mindful of the basic principles of thinking about possibilities, experimenting with them, and encouraging the speed of passing through the different layers of leadership, we are on the right track to become an organisation that is agile and fast.