For ages, the size of a business determined its success rate: big companies were more likely to succeed than smaller ones. But not anymore. Today, C-level executives around the world are waking up each day, worrying about who or what is going to disrupt their business. Today, agility is what defines competitive advantage; it is what is driving businesses like Netflix, Apple, and Uber to the pinnacle of success. Fast and adaptive businesses beat slow and steadfast organizations – hands down! According to a study by Forbes, 92% of businesses believe organizational agility is critical to business success. New technologies, evolving customer preferences and changing employee expectations are compelling companies to be more and more agile. Agile firms are more than twice as likely as the average organization to achieve top-quartile financial performance.
Clearly, the time has come for businesses to move beyond rigid hierarchies, siloed business units, and crippling bureaucracy – and move towards an environment that combines the efficiencies of scale with the speed, flexibility, and resilience.
Why the initiatives typically fail
Although enterprise agility allows organizations to consistently deliver value to customers in a constantly changing market, the journey is laden with challenges. Several organizations embark on the road to agile transformation, but many of them struggle to achieve the desired outcome. There are several reasons why your initiatives can fail:
- Misalignment between aspiration and reality: Since enterprise agility fundamentally is a redesign of the operating model of the enterprise, many get started on the journey without first ensuring alignment between the aspiration and value of the transformation. With no clear picture, companies end up adopting a range of very different agile principles that take the transformation for a toss.
- Driving agility in silos: Very often, companies limit agility efforts to certain teams and departments only – and do not implement it as an enterprise-wide strategy. While such a pilot project might be successful, it prevents the C-suite from understanding the far-reaching impact and strategic value a broader agile transformation could have. Carrying out a series of such pilots in isolation can result in wasted time and effort; the projects start dying a slow death the minute there is a need to reallocate funding for new initiatives.
- Not building the right agile culture: More than the right strategies, agile requires companies to develop the right culture. 50% of companies consider culture to be one of the biggest hurdles to adopting higher levels of agility. Just implementing some agile tactics and expecting to be successful at driving enterprise agility while ignoring the cultural and change management implications of agile is one of the biggest mistakes large organizations make.
How to ensure success
Embarking the agile transformation journey, although complex, can reap substantial benefits. Agile organizations move faster, are more adaptable, and can quickly respond to changing business dynamics. They achieve higher productivity at a reduced cost. If you want to ensure success, you need to look throughout the organization and find areas where an agile operating model can unlock value. Here are some tips:
- Be clear on the objectives: The first thing to ensure success with your enterprise agility initiatives is to be clear on the objectives. Apple’s launch of the iPod and move into the digital music business is the ideal example of game-changing strategic agility; more than the idea, it was Apple’s clarity on the objectives that enabled them to stay in the game long enough that made all the difference. Don’t get overwhelmed by the impediments; instead, ensure transparency across the enterprise to understand existing issues and challenges, and prioritize appropriate action plans. Clearly communicate the objectives to everyone in the organization, to have their support in achieving common goals.
- Build a core team: No enterprise agility transformation can be successful if the team comprises people just from one department or unit. For enterprise agility to work in your organization, you need to build a core team with process champions, tech experts, and as well as execution personnel who take a holistic approach to entire transformation. Do you know? Much of Facebook’s product roadmap comes from ideas generated by staff rather than just the opinions in the boardroom. When interactions happen between individuals that possess the necessary behaviors, resources, competence, and experience, common goals are achieved faster and more efficiently.
- Ensure senior management commitment & engagement: Although team level involvement is important, no enterprise agility initiative can be successful without the support, commitment and engagement of the senior management. In 2014, Barclays top management started looking into Agile management. It found that there was already some Agile practice at the organization. In March 2015, when Barclays’ leadership decided on Agile as a key strategic initiative, it invited the Agile practitioners to come forward and become the champions of the company’s Agile transformation. The leadership clearly went much beyond just offering the sponsorship of funds. It is only when senior leaders and executives champion agile behaviors throughout the organization and clearly communicate the vision that organizations can respond rapidly, innovatively and creatively to changes in the market conditions.
- Use the right tools: Enterprise agility success also depends on the tools you use to drive the transformation. While there are several options to increase the speed and agility with which you respond to changes – such as DevOps, customer alignment, automation, lean processes and digital enablement – one of the best ways to ensure success is to systemize agile implementation. This way you are sure there is early feedback, it is predictable and scalable. By using Agile tools that focus on continuous iteration and interaction, Tesla has been able to achieve great success in the collaborative design and development process – in half the time. An agile architecture enables you to provide customers the products they want quickly and efficiently. You can automate many of the processes and respond to changes in the market in a timely manner.
- Use KPIs to measure success: KPIs are a great way to see how your transformation initiatives are faring. Start by understanding what your business needs to achieve; then define the questions you need answers to. Identifying your data needs, and evaluating all existing data enables you to carry out a gap analysis of what you have and what you would ideally like to have. Determine how frequently you would want to measure the metrics, and the methodology you want to use. Communicate the KPIs across your enterprise, evaluate them regularly, and ensure they are understood by everyone.
- Drive continuous improvement: Periodic reviews of your agility transformation initiatives provide a snapshot of things that are working and things that are not. Amazon, for instance, promotes a culture of experimentation at the front lines; teams pick up on ideas that executives and engineers come up with, test them and roll-out successful ones across the organization quickly. Reviews allow you to prioritize your efforts: you can devote more time and effort to highly effective initiatives and eliminate the ones that drive little or no value.
Compete and win
With technology reducing the barriers to entry, the market share in every industry is up for grabs. Organizations are having a tough time keeping up, and enterprise agility is the only way traditional businesses can compete with today’s digital disruptors and win! It is through enterprise agility that organizations can foster a mindset of innovation and react and respond to changes with ease. They can quickly source and test ideas and match the variety of speeds needed to survive and thrive in today’s competitive world. If you’re looking to get the most out of your enterprise agility initiatives, consider hiring an external transformation consultant. Such consultants can bring years of experience to the table while helping your core team with the right balance of culture, process and tech changes which your organization can adapt.
Let’s connect if you are looking to start your enterprise agility initiatives. I might be able to share some practical tips and examples 🙂