During the pandemic, we lost more than 100,000 small businesses according to The Washington Post. Although agility wouldn’t have saved them all, you have to wonder — how many would be open today if they embraced agile practices?
One thing we’ve learned for sure is this: In times of turbulence, uncertainty, and disruption, being able to pivot quickly to respond to changing circumstances is everything. Even before COVID-19, businesses were starting to make the changes needed to better cope with change and to make faster decisions. The pandemic has only served to increase the importance of doing so and increase the pressure for organizations of all sizes to adopt more agile business models.
Statistics support the shift. For example, according to Accenture, agility can more than double an organization's odds of achieving top financial performance. Additionally, MIT finds that 31% of highly agile organizations increase their EBITDA by at least 20% compared to only 1% of average organizations.
Research from McKinsey & Company revealed that 93% of business units that adopted an agile culture before the pandemic outperformed business units that didn't, proving that agile culture is more than just a trend or a buzzword. It’s one of the major driving forces behind business growth and the key to weathering the ever-changing business landscape.
What is an Agile Culture
Agile businesses can quickly adapt to changing markets, respond quickly to customer demands, adapt to embrace cost efficiency without losing quality, and remain at a competitive advantage. Business agility is all about adopting capabilities, values, and behaviors that empower both organizations and individuals to be more creative and resilient while coping with change and uncertainty, which in turn leads to better business outcomes.
An agile culture values human input over work processes. Collaboration, results, and a desire to intelligently respond to change are all more important and valuable than following a strict plan. Some of the hallmarks of an agile culture include:
Having a shared purpose and vision that's clear across the entire organization
Built around a network of teams that are empowered with clear roles, accountability, and an active ecosystem
Rapid decision cycles, continuous learning, and action-oriented decision making
A cohesive community with role mobility and entrepreneurial drive that stokes the flames of everyone's passion
Empowered with the adoption of next-generation technology
How to Embrace an Agile Culture
Agile culture allows organizations of all sizes to think more like startups, which in turn drives business growth. The most successful businesses have several things in common. They embrace disruption and view it as an opportunity, not an obstacle. They use active listening to better understand and respond to their customers' needs. And they adopt agile innovations that allow them to bring new solutions to the market quickly.
Take a Cue from the Agile Business Consortium
Organizations that embrace an agile culture operate in fundamentally different ways than those that don’t. That culture is reinforced at all levels, with the organization’s values, norms, and values all reflecting it. To embrace agility, consider adopting the four core values lauded by The Agile Business Consortium:
Valuing innovation and learning above retaining the status quo.
Providing inspiring leadership instead of conservative management
Placing collaboration and self-direction above micro-management and hierarchical control
Working toward a collective purpose instead of acting in self-interest
Adopt an Agile Mindset
An agile mindset streamlines the hierarchy needed to make decisions, empowers small groups and teams to take action, and facilitates a faster flow. Agile cultures are built around people. Everyone from the top of the business to the newest hires should have an agile mindset to create the consistency you need to truly be effective. And that mindset typically includes four major elements:
Recognizing hard and smart work
Being transparent in your values and the business's purpose, clear in your expectations, and defining everyone's roles in relationship to the business's overall purpose
Building trust amongst colleagues and the organization
Investing in learning and training
Consider the Pareto Principle
Vilfredo Pareto was an economist in the early 20th century. He believed that 80% of the value you're able to deliver comes from 20% of the effort you're putting forth. This is huge for businesses looking to grow because there are so many options and avenues you could pursue, but not enough resources and time to do it. Instead, find that 20% that your organization does that's providing the bulk of the value. Agility is less about perfection and more about providing optimal value. Prioritize that 20% and see how your business evolves to deliver value faster and more effectively.
Embracing an agile culture has proven to make businesses more resilient while driving growth. The business landscape is ever-more fast-paced, with changes in technology, regulations, employee expectations, and consumer demands. The ability to adapt quickly to those changes is what organizations of all sizes need, now perhaps more than ever. Viewing challenges as opportunities and creating a truly agile culture can help your business survive and thrive.