There’s only one constant in the modern business world: change. This gives agile businesses a distinct advantage in any and every space. From retail to manufacturing to tech, if you have the most agile company, you can stay ahead of the pack.
The question is, how do you make a business more agile? Of course, if you’re launching a new startup, you can weave agility into the fabric of your new organization. But what about an enterprise that is already in existence?
Here’s 6 Ways Leaders Can Make Their Businesses More Agile
If you helm a business and want to become more agile, here are several suggestions for different ways to help you.
1. Be Strategic About In-House Departments
One of the quickest suggestions for staying affordable and flexible is bringing various departments in-house. The trend to internalize important activities can make a lot of sense at times. It can give you a larger sense of creative control and help you make quicker decisions.
However, the experts at Hawke Media point out that the choice between in-house execution and functions like outsourced marketing “is an important business decision that will affect the future of your company and needs to be taken seriously.”
The marketing agency reports that fully internalizing an area like marketing can cost a company upwards of $84,000 per month — and that’s just a baseline. Of course, outsourcing an entire marketing strategy to a third party can represent a substantial line item as well.
If you’re looking for a way to remain agile while still maintaining profits, it’s important to resist approaching the problem formulaically. Instead, consider each department and even each activity in that department. For example, in the case of marketing, can you outsource a particular portion of the work, such as PR or social media management?
The goal should be to utilize third-party agencies without being dependent on them for entire departments or segments of your organization. Using an á la carte approach can maintain a sense of independence and flexibility while still enabling you to capitalize on specific outsourced lifelines.
2. Reduce and Focus on Priorities and Goals
Priorities are important for a company. They help maintain a focus on what really matters. In the same vein, goals are also important. Corporate mission statements, team objectives, and individual growth points are all critical aspects of success.
Over time, though, it’s easy to become buried in priorities and bloated by goals. When this happens, both can lose their luster. If the situation is bad enough, they can even become irrelevant.
This leads to stagnant processes, dated methods, and an uninspired workforce. If you want to remain agile and ready for change, you have to work to keep both your priorities and your goals on point.
You can start this process by reviewing your current priorities both as a company and as an individual leader. Are you stretched too thin? Are so many things “important” that nothing really matters anymore? If that’s the case, take the time to overhaul your priority list. First, make sure you understand each priority that you have. Then refocus on the minimal number of items that truly matter.
In the same vein, go over your current goals and objectives. Categorize things into short-, medium-, and long-term goals. Then get rid of everything else. Maintaining crystal clear priorities and objectives can help you stay focused and on track throughout any change you have to react to.
3. Lean Into Harmonized Retail
One of the biggest factors that cannot fall off of your radar is your customer. No matter how big a change or how dramatic a shift is, you always need to keep your customer at the front of the line.
This need to provide continual value to the customer is something that cannot be lost in the shuffle while creating an agile organization. After all, if you operate with peak agility but do not meet your customers’ needs, you will ultimately fail. If you’re going to marry the ideas of agility and customer prioritization, you have to avoid fixating on a specific way to serve your customers.
Instead of committing to specific forms of customer service or marketing, savvy leaders should adopt harmonized retail. Strategist and innovation consultant Steve Dennis defines harmonized retail as “accepting the truth that all the talk about different channels is not particularly helpful. The customer is the channel.”
In other words, don’t get stuck on the methods or tools that you use to reach your customers. Instead, keep your sites on the customers themselves. This behavior, in and of itself, is agile by its very nature.
Rather than using predetermined channels to interact with customers at specific touchpoints, remain ready to shift your position to meet your target audience wherever they are. This is one of the most important customer-facing aspects of any truly agile organization.
4. Make Agility a Recruitment Focal Point
An agile organization must remain so in perpetuity. It cannot be agile for a single generation of employees. That’s why your recruitment strategy should also be taken into consideration. The people you hire will make or break the long-term success of your agility efforts.
The priorities and methods that you use to bring talent into your company are likely already well defined. But if you want to foster an agile business, it’s worth reviewing your recruitment formula to ensure that you’re looking for the right traits in a new hire.
The task-masters at MeisterTask outline several critical elements that should be front and center when vetting a candidate for an agile workforce. These include:
- Flexibility and adaptability: Two hallmark traits of an agile individual, the ability to roll with the punches and adjust to an ever-evolving workspace, are critical individual skills.
- Collaboration and decentralized authority: The ability to work with others to find solutions and to take on personal responsibility are also needed in a more decentralized agile work environment.
- Simplicity: An agile workspace can be hectic at times, particularly as methods and objectives change, making the ability to remain simple and streamlined an essential personality trait.
- Transparency: An agile workplace’s delegation and added responsibility make honesty and transparency non-negotiable for any new hire.
Many factors go into hiring a new member of your team. Nevertheless, it’s important that you also consider what you’re looking for when it comes to supporting an agile workforce over time.
5. Maintain an Agile Mindset
Hiring agile employees is a critical first step. But you can’t stop there. If you want to make your business more agile, you must also make an effort to cultivate an agile mindset in both management and staff alike.
This should start with a decentralized structure and an empowered workforce. Centralized authority structures can hold up agile organizations due to slow decision-making and limited innovative inspiration. Make sure your workforce remains decentralized, from taking responsibility for their own projects to accepting open and honest feedback. Employees that are trained, self-confident, and empowered can make critical decisions on their own — even throughout periods of change.
In addition, encourage agile-friendly traits, like transparency. The willingness to engage in honest communication and be forthcoming with information are essential elements of any healthy transition.
Innovation is another important factor. In order to capitalize on change, your team should be well adjusted to exercising their creativity. Mistakes should be talked through rather than punished. And, employees and management alike should be ready to make their visionary voices heard.
Most important of all, your team should maintain a growth mindset. Stanford University psychology professor Carol Dweck defines a growth mindset as “individuals who believe their talents can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others).”
Dweck goes on to explain that “when entire companies embrace a growth mindset, their employees report feeling far more empowered and committed; they also receive far greater organizational support for collaboration and innovation.” Therefore, to develop a long-term agile mindset for your company, you must have the ability to embrace a growth mindset.
6. Lead by Example
This last point is the oldest one in the book. And yet, it is the lynchpin for any sustainable push for agility. If you want your company to become and to remain agile, you have to be the one to lead the charge.
Leading by example includes demonstrating all of the recommendations listed above in your own personal activities. Weight the importance of each and every outsourcing/in-housing decision. Keep simple, clear, and concise goals. Maintain a focus on the customer at all times. Go beyond agile methods and embrace a bona fide agile mindset, too.
As a leader, you must show those who follow you why agility is important for your collective success. Showing entails action on the leaders’ part and is teaching by example. Showing and teaching can’t just take the form of theories presented on whiteboards in long, dry meetings. The example must also show through your words, your actions, and your decisions.
If you can do that, you can set your company on the road toward becoming an expertly agile organization. Additionally, your business will be ready to face the winds of change, no matter where they may lead you in the future.