Agile business practices can be summarized as the ability to think and understand quickly; to move and respond quickly and easily. And to do this while acting in the best interests of the community and wider environment. We offer the following profile for an agile business:
Agile Business Profile
Self-knowledge is about knowing your strengths and weaknesses and the importance of working to improve these where necessary. For your business, this is imperative. It is part of understanding why you started, what is your role and why the need to pre-empt and react are so vital to survival.
An agile business knows the environment in which it operates. It recognising opportunities and threats and knows how to exploit or avoid as necessary. Additionally, it knows the terrain in which it operates. It knows the habits and location of prey and predators and understands the competition and their strengths and weaknesses.
Finally, an agile business is open to change, with a flexible approach not enslaved to any particular mindset. It follows that when conditions change, externally or internally, the the agile business effects change quickly and easily.
Like an animal, your business needs to be able to thrive within it’s environment and be protected from the worst scenarios. Therefore, suitability to that environment means having the right skills, knowledge and systems. This helps ensure your business is able to exploit the environment and protect against the sort of adverse conditions that might leave others flailing and unable to cope.
Health and fitness is a must. Again, as with animals in the wild, who are rarely unfit, your organisation has to have a strong and stable core, with good balance, and be in good health. Combined with flexibility of movement and good coordination, this enables swift and appropriate responses.
Equally, systems and processes are necessary to enable quick communication and decisions, coordinated action and automatic responses. They also provide important mechanisms to monitor and review, so as to learn from experience.
Anticipation is an awareness that the status quo will never last for long. So, it is important to constantly scan the horizon and be fully alert. Only then can you hope to predict change or see it early enough to act appropriately.
Trust is abouth two-way dialogue, concensus and freedom. Trust works both ways, up and down the heirarchy of your organisation and allows everyone some choice in how action is taken. In this way, all members of your community have security, knowing they will be measured on results.
Practice is how we get better, not only at the things we do, but also (through training and ‘what if’ scenarios) the things we might have to do.
So, now we know the profile of an agile business. What is required operationally to become agile?
Operational Aspects of an Agile Business
We believe in working on these four key areas to attain business agility. Agile Working is about looking at how you work and what your people need to work best. This involves addressing every aspect of how, when, where and why you work and how this is best achieved for your people, your organisation, your immediate community and the wider environment.
So, what is the end goal? This should already be part of your business plan, but will need adapting if you are to become agile. However, these objectives should not be alien to most organisations.
- Growth of individuals, the organisation and the wider community.
- Cost reduction to create a lean, efficient organisation that does not waste time, energy or money.
- Sustainability, to ensure that the organisation is able to maintain itself and its people for as long as possible.
To be fully realised, these objectives must be understood and shared by all members of your organisation. Think of your business like a pack or herd in the wild. It will best survive when each member works together toward the same goals and does not seek more for themselves than is necessary.
Agility in the wild
It helps to understand agility if we look at the natural world. Agility helps animals hunt and avoid being hunted. They are wary, they know their environment and are able to move easily and quickly to take advantage of opportunities and avoid threats.
For animals, this is partly intuitive, like the proces of ‘fight of flight’. But much of this ‘intuition’ comes from training and practice. The young are taught by their parents and community, practice with siblings and then act in the real world under supervision, before venturing out on their own. Their survival depends on what they learn and how they use that knowledge.
Every thing the animal does, the way it is built, its sense, the way it moves, etc., all are in tune to survival. It is aware of and adapted to its environment. It can make decisions and act on them quickly. Agility is how the animal not only survives but protects its young and the community of which it is part.