Your Strategy Doesn’t Matter if You Lack Business Agility
We can agree that creating and executing an effective strategy is critical to success. But how do you know when you’re done strategizing and it’s time to execute?
The digital environment is a fast-paced engine of change. If you resist the forces that call for innovation and progress, you’ll get buried by the competition.
When it comes to planning change initiatives—whether it’s software implementation, creating a new role, or amending processes—you may feel inclined to sit down and carefully plan out every detail.
This urge is natural: You want to ensure your strategy is bulletproof, and that the change will go smoothly. But this approach could lead to a plan that is obsolete by the time you implement it. All of the time and resources you spent on the strategic process will be for nothing.
Instead, companies should foster greater business agility and faster strategy execution.
Strive for structure, not perfection
Plotting out every small detail is not a productive approach to creating strategy. Doing so is too time-consuming and resource intensive. It also leads to rigid strategies that cannot react to unexpected challenges.
The most effective strategies function as flexible structures that guide action to achieve a goal.
The key is knowing when to stop strategizing and when to start doing
Take the example of rock climbing.
When a climber is standing at the bottom of a mountain, she sees the end goal—the peak—and plans her ascent. She looks for areas that have good potential footholds and determines which areas she should avoid. But the climber’s strategy is largely structural. There is no point in planning a precise path. Unless this is a route the climber has experience with, it will be impossible to determine each foothold from the bottom of the mountain.
The climber must be agile. Her strategy should be flexible and allow for game-time decisions based on situational factors. She isn’t unprepared — she has the confidence to begin, and the know-how to navigate any obstacle.
In the digital age, strategy must be nimble and execution must be fast
In the past, it was standard procedure to develop meticulous strategies for any given objective. But in the era of digital transformation, in which rapidly evolving technologies can derail strategy overnight, there is little time or use for such planning.
Thus emerges the need to reimagine the way we perceive strategy, and subsequently, business.
Business agility has become the most important indicator of organizational health
Traditionally, organizations were seen as machines where every department’s functions were rigid and defined. Management was hierarchical and teams operated in silos with little collaboration between them.
This structure makes change management slow and adaptability difficult to achieve. It also tends to be bureaucratic, which hinders quick execution time.
In a recent report from McKinsey&Company, the authors define a new business paradigm. Instead of machines, they compare organizations to living organisms. As an organism, the company’s “backbone” develops slowly over time, giving it stability. At the same time, the backbone supports dynamic movement and is adaptable to external forces.
This combination of stability and agility enables businesses to create, test, and execute strategy — with minimal risk.
Organizations with high business agility are inherently more strategic
Agile companies can move from strategy to execution fast because the traits that make them agile also support action.
Key traits of agile companies
Organizations with a high agility are more nimble, resilient, and efficient, according to McKinsey. They perform better under pressure, are more adept to responding to customer demands, and have a more engaged workforce.
Agile companies prioritize experimentation and implementation. They rely on collaboration, accountability, and communication to continuously execute short-term initiatives. When something is wrong, they deploy course-correcting measures to get on the right track.
Agile companies have fast and efficient decision makers. Agile leaders would rather act sooner based on probability than later based on certainty. While they solicit input from across the organization, they don’t seek consensus. They make a decision, adjust it as needed, and move on.
They place a premium on transparency. Leaders make important information accessible to the organization. All team members are encouraged to share ideas and come up with innovative solutions to challenges.
Leadership is hands-on, but they aren’t controlling. Instead, leaders serve as visionaries and empower others to innovate, collaborate, and contribute ideas.
Technology plays an integral role in every aspect of an agile business. Companies with business agility use software to support decision making and flexibility. They ensure employees can use communication platforms, CRMs, and other software solutions to their fullest potential.
If they find this is not the case, leaders take steps to remedy the issue. Many companies have realized the value a Digital Adoption Platform (DAP) provides organizations that are struggling to use technology efficiently. With a solution like WalkMe, which provides on-screen, contextual guidance at the point of need, you can streamline the software learning process and instantly raise employee productivity.
Increase business agility to become more strategic
Companies that have an agile framework are better able to execute strategy faster and more effectively. Here are 5 tips to increase business agility and stability.
- Assemble a qualified team that you trust. Leaders should seek to build teams that value collaboration, innovation, continual learning, and adaptability.
- Create a decision-making framework that facilitates speed and efficiency. While different decisions demand varying degrees of input and stakeholder approval, it helps to have a guide to drive the process forward. Without an effective decision making process, it will be difficult to turn strategy into reality.
- Allow for flexible resource allocation. Decisions cost money. Without the ability to steer finances in the right direction, execution will face many obstacles.
- Create structures for both reactive and proactive strategic planning. Long-term proactive strategies help fortify the company’s “backbone.” But when external challenges arise, businesses must have a structure in place to deploy a reactive strategy. It is in these situations that agility is most important.
- Keep a pulse on industry trends and technology developments. These factors can have a significant influence on your business, and inform changes to your strategy.
Business agility has emerged as the No. 1 most important trait for companies in the digital age. Without it, they will be unable to react to the unexpected obstacles and changes that will inevitably arise. With it, the framework to strategically assess, plan, and execute change will be built into their DNA.
Becoming agile does not happen overnight. It takes a deliberate effort across the organization, starting with the CEO. But with the steps summarized here, acquiring business agility is within reach.