Agile Business practices are described by Wikipedia as “the ability of a business system to rapidly respond to change by adapting its initial stable configuration. It can be sustained by maintaining and adapting goods and services in meeting customer demands, adjusting to the changes in a business environment, and taking advantage of available human resources.”
Here we look at what that “stable configuration” might look like.
Agile Business Profile
Self-knowledge: knowing your strengths and weaknesses and the importance of working to improve these where necessary. This then forms part of the understanding as to why your business exists, what is its place in the community and why the need to pre-empt and react are so vital to survival.
Knowledge of environment: an awareness of your operating environment, recognising opportunities and threats and knowing how to exploit or avoid as necessary. This leads to an understanding of factors affecting that environment and the nature of competitors and their strengths and weaknesses.
Open to change: with a flexible approach not enslaved to any particular mindset, only a shared set of values and adaptable systems. It follows that when conditions alter, externally or internally, the agile business effects change quickly and easily.
Suitability to environment: your business needs to be able to thrive within it’s environment and be protected from the worst scenarios. Therefore, you need 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: your organisation has to have a strong and stable core, and running efficiently and effectively. Combined with flexibility of movement and good coordination, this enables swift and appropriate responses.
Systems and processes: these mmust be simple, interconnected and adaptable. This enables quick communication and decisions, coordinated action and, where possible, automatic responses. It also provides important mechanisms to monitor and review, so as to learn from experience.
Anticipation: 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. Even when the type of change or its effect are unknown or unknwable, you may still see enough to be ready 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 and are free to act in the best interests of the organisation and allowed to make mistakes.
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.
Objectives of the Agile Business
Probaly the objectives of most organisations:
- Growth and development of individuals, the organisation and the communities in which they operate
- 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
Agility in the wild
It helps to understand agility if we look at the natural world. Agility helps animals hunt and avoid being hunted. Because they are wary and know their environment, they 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, action in the real world under supervision, before venturing out on their own. Therefore, 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. So agility is how the animal not only survives but protects its young and the community of which it is part.