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” looks like and create the profile of 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. This leads to better understanding of 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 the environment is about 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.
Being open to change is also important. The idea is to adopt a flexible approach and not be 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 means thriving within the immediate and wider environment and being protected from the worst scenarios. Therefore, you need the right skills, knowledge and systems. Now your business is exploiting the environment. It is protecting itself against the sort of adverse conditions that might leave others flailing and unable to cope.
Health and fitness gives your organisation its strong and stable core. From this core, everything runs efficiently and effectively. Combined with flexibility of movement and good coordination, this enables swift and appropriate responses.
Systems and processes must 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 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. Even when the type of change or its effect are unknown or unknowable, you may still see enough to be ready to act appropriately.
Trust is about two-way dialogue, consensus and freedom. Trust works both ways, up and down the hierarchy of your organisation. And it allows everyone some choice in how action is taken. In this way, all members of your community have security. They know 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.
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 process of ‘fight of flight’. But much of this ‘intuition’ comes from training and practice. The young are taught by their parents and community and practice with siblings. This then translates to 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.
Everything 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.