In today’s VUCA world, it is vital for organisations to rapidly adapt to fluctuating market conditions, cater to changing customer requirements, and continuously refine products or services. It is not always easy to do these things but as a business leader, understanding these challenges and finding ways to successfully address them is essential.
Embracing business agility is a continuous journey throughout a company's life. A variety of approaches are needed to foster an agile and adaptable organisation — one that creates a more flexible way of working that consistently delivers customer value.
Business leaders should also adopt a tailored approach to their organisation’s agile transformation as there is no one-size-fits-all solution – every business and every industry has its own distinct goals, priorities, and contexts. Tailoring in this way will bolster an organisation's resilience and therefore success in today's unpredictable business climate.
So, what are the practical, results-driven strategies we can use to facilitate a smoother, more effective transition towards business agility?
Common hurdles to overcome when transforming to business agility
By understanding organisations' common challenges when adopting business agility, business leaders can better prepare for potential obstacles and proactively develop strategies to overcome them.
Let's take a closer look at the challenges.
Resistance to Change
One of the most significant obstacles to overcome when adopting business agility is resistance. People may resist new and unfamiliar processes and practices and managers may hesitate to give up control. Seeking to understand the underlying reasons for resistance, such as fear of job loss or perceived loss of status, helps to address this issue. Empathising with employees, showing vulnerability and understanding their fears and concerns is crucial.
Clear communication of the benefits of business agility, sufficient employee training and support in the adoption of new processes and practices via workshops, educational sessions and coaching, are also crucial in order to overcome this challenge.
Leading by example is vital too, with top leaders needing to embrace changes and ‘practise what they preach’ by themselves embodying the behaviours they want to see in others — by being the change they want to see. Encouraging open dialogue and addressing concerns helps to mitigate resistance and cultivate a more agile mentality across the organisation.
Lack of Alignment
Organisations must also deal with misalignment between teams and departments, as this can cause confusion and customer value delivery delays.
Establishing transparent communication channels and aligning everyone with the organisation's goals and objectives are essential to overcome this challenge. This may involve regular meetings, check-ins and shared metrics. By fostering alignment, everyone will grasp their role in delivering customer value. Forming cross-functional teams and promoting collaboration can dissolve silos and encourage a more integrated approach to achieving business objectives.
Adopting business agility requires substantial resources, including time, money, and staff. This poses a challenge for organisations already feeling the strain.
Strategic resource allocation and prioritisation of customer value initiatives are essential to overcome this challenge. This might involve concentrating on high-priority areas, optimising resource usage through team and department collaboration, and continuously overseeing resource allocation to ensure alignment with organisational goals and objectives.
Implementing agile practices such as value-based work prioritisation and Minimum Viable Product (MVP) delivery focus can help organisations maximise available resources and guarantee efficient customer value delivery. When internal resources are insufficient, external funding or partnerships to support the agile transformation should be considered.
Effective governance is key to expanding business agility. Governance encompasses decision-making processes, resource distribution, risk management, and tracking and reporting progress. However, crafting explicit guidelines and policies for the adoption of agile methodologies can be difficult.
It is important to establish a governance framework aligned with the organisation's goals and objectives. Regularly revising and adapting these guidelines and policies is crucial. It is also wise to explore different governance models suitable for agile organisations, such as Agile Governance or Adaptive Governance, to find the best fit. Engaging stakeholders in creating this framework enhances its relevance, efficacy, and acceptance.
Lack of Leadership Support
Strong leadership backing is vital for embracing business agility. Employees will understandably be reluctant to adopt new methods and practices without such support.
To overcome this challenge, leaders must articulate the advantages of business agility and offer assistance and resources to help employees adopt new practices.
This involves promoting business agility benefits, delivering a transparent implementation roadmap, and acknowledging and celebrating achievements.
Leaders should also welcome feedback and continuously learn from their teams, nurturing a collective support and development culture.
Selecting Appropriate Agile Frameworks and Tools
Organisations may need help selecting the ideal agile frameworks and tools that cater to their specific requirements and contexts. This difficulty can create confusion and obstruct the successful adoption of business agility.
To overcome this challenge, it is imperative to fully research and comprehend the strengths and weaknesses of various agile frameworks such as Scrum, Kanban, Lean, and SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework).
Engaging external Agile coaches or consultants can offer valuable insights and guidance in choosing the most appropriate frameworks and tools. Moreover, ensuring that the chosen ones can adapt and evolve along with the organisation's growth and changing needs is of paramount importance.
Balancing Agility and Stability
Although adopting business agility is essential for organisations to adjust and thrive in a fast-paced environment, maintaining stability in specific areas is equally important. Balancing agility and stability can be challenging, and organisations must be both flexible and adaptable, while offering a stable foundation for employees and customers.
To overcome this challenge, it is important to identify areas where stability is critical, such as core business processes, data security and regulatory compliance.
Clearly defining and communicating these stable areas allows organisations to ensure that their pursuit of agility does not compromise the necessary stability for long-term success.
Adopting a flexible approach to agile frameworks also helps maintain stability in key areas while allowing adaptability. For example, Apple Inc. has managed to maintain a balance between agility and stability, constantly innovating and adapting to market changes while preserving a stable core of products and services.
Fostering Trust and Psychological Safety
Developing a culture of trust and psychological safety is a fundamental requirement for successfully integrating business agility. Innovation and adaptability flourish when employees feel secure in taking risks, making errors, and expressing their thoughts.
To tackle hurdles linked to trust and emotional safety, leaders must actively promote open dialogue, maintain transparency in decision-making, and offer and accept constructive feedback.
Recognising and learning from mistakes and collectively applauding accomplishments can help create a trusting and emotionally safe space. This culture of trust and safety empowers employees and means they welcome change, which enhances the organisation's overall agility.
Employees should also be encouraged to give and receive feedback openly, encouraging a learning culture. Setting up anonymous channels for expressing concerns can help create a safe environment for employees to share their thoughts, without fear of repercussions.
Communities of Practice
Cultivating robust communities of practice greatly supports the adoption of business agility. These communities inspire cooperation, innovation, and ongoing learning.
They provide a supportive setting where employees openly exchange ideas and share experiences, challenges and victories.
As a valuable support system, practice-based communities enable individuals to learn from peers, experiment with innovative methods, and collaborate to establish and refine best practices.
These cooperative communities contribute to the organisation's resilience and adaptability. This allows the organisation to support agile teams and effectively drive organisational change with individuals with different backgrounds and expertise. This enriches the exchange of ideas and fosters innovation.
These communities of practice can be supported by regular meetings, workshops, and online platforms for collaboration, helping to drive innovation and continuous improvement. In summary, cultivating a culture of constant learning and improvement is vital to overcome the above challenges and effectively embrace business agility.
Such a culture includes offering support and resources for employees to increase their skills and knowledge, and routinely examining and modifying processes and practices to guarantee customer value.
Fostering an environment where employees experiment with incremental change to processes and practices is essential, and this involves employees continually testing and measuring the impact of these changes. By doing this, teams can iterate and refine processes and practices, making them more effective.
Establishing a culture of ongoing learning and improvement, reinforced by solid leadership and open communication, will empower organisations to fully adopt business agility and provide value to customers in an ever-evolving business landscape.
It is true that adopting business agility may be a challenging process but organisations can successfully shift to a more agile way of operating by addressing the common issues described.
If your organisation would like to join the Agile Business Consortium’s Community of Business Agility Practice, to share and learn from peers with both similar and different challenges, please email: [email protected]Please note: blogs reflect the opinions of their authors and do not necessarily reflect the recommendations or guidance of the Agile Business Consortium.