Agility: How to Prepare for the Unknown and Seize Opportunity?

How do you prepare for the unknown? Neither the savviest executives nor the masters of technological wizardry can predict the future. How can CEO’s prepare the business for an industry that may be unrecognizable in five or ten years? In our last blog, we discussed the concepts of evolution, re-configuration and transformation, and how when “the earth shakes, the future belongs to those who have anticipated the change and prepared for it”.

But, how do we prepare for something we don’t know?

As much as we love to preach about the way things will be in ten or twenty years, in truth is we have absolutely no idea. The consumer, the employee, the market, the economy – even society itself will radically change in several years. We are certain DVD manufacturers felt pretty good about themselves in 2000 – but what about now? While it’s impossible to predict the future, preparing for it is imperative. And therefore, the reason why the concept of Agility has come centre stage. We cannot create our future self today, but we can develop agilityso we should no longer fear what tomorrow may bring.

Ok, but what is Agile?

Most involved in the business world will immediately associate the word agile with the Project Management methodology, that came into being in the early 2000s. An approach that essentially proposes iteration, incremental development, instead of the traditional linear sequential process. But Agile is much more than scrums, stand-up meetings or whiteboards with colourful post-its. There is a big difference in “doing agile” and “being agile”. Being agile is about embedding capabilities to become faster, stronger and more flexible. It is about building the muscles required to improve performance. With a combination of a vision, structure, tools, processes and rhythms, a person or company can get their “body” fit to adapt to any circumstance.

But, how to unlock the promise of agile?

Based on our experience of numerous agile transformations within organizations, we have confirmed that achieving full enterprise agility can only be reached when incorporating agile project management methodologies and an agile operating framework. Nevertheless, we have compiled what we believe to be the five core fundamentals that can unlock the promise of agile.

1) Experimentation

We do not know all the answers, and that’s OK. The idea that failure must be avoided at all costs deserves to be consigned to the scrapheap of history. If the fear of failure hangs above peoples’ heads, the handbrake of innovation will remain firmly pulled up. While small failures may be frustrating, they are small steps towards eventual success. The best way to minimize risk and succeed is to embrace uncertainty and be the quickest and most productive in trying new things. The ability for organizations and people to react and seize opportunities a few months ahead of competitors can be worth millions or billions of dollars. Agile organisations try new things, learn quickly and improve, therefore achieve faster and better results.

2) Collaboration

From the days of early man when we gathered in groups to hunt, to great explorations that charted our world, even to our modern technological advances, humans are better when collaborating. Facing the challenges of the future will require people working together to achieve a common goal. It will require us to recognize our own limitations, but also put aside our egos and accept other people’s strengths as if they were our own. If you don’t know, ask somebody. If you don’t have those skills inside your organizations, find somebody outside who does. Agile organisations have fewer individual contributors, less functional silos and more teams, tribes and networks working together.

3) Dynamic Prioritization

One negative effect of our modern and busy world is our prioritization. There is too much to do, and everything needs to be done now. Why do so many new year resolutions fail? There are mainly two reasons. Firstly, because instead of one, we set numerous. Are twelve resolutions even possible to achieve? Secondly, the sheer length of time associated. Who even remembers the resolutions 6 months later? In business terms, is very similar. On one hand, the list of goals and priorities has become limitless and resources every day more limited. People try to do all, but unfortunately end up doing none. On the other, the idea of annual planning for individual work has become a shaky attempt to control volatility and uncertainty. Agile organisations organise and prioritise work for value.

4) Technology

Quite simply, new technologies make our lives significantly easier. From a simple act such as looking up information on Google to Netflix offering us a selection of titles that its algorithm believes we might like. Our lives have untaken a breath-taking transformation in what seems like a blink of an eye, and we have technology to thank for this. No company can survive in today’s modern world without the assistance of technology, and only those who operate on the edge of technological breakthroughs can size the opportunities of what the future holds. In Agile organisations next-generation technology is seamlessly integrated and core to every aspect of the organisation.

5) People

Tomorrow’s world needs to become more human, not less. While much of the attention today falls on technology, sooner or later we will realize that the secret of survival and competitive advantage can only come from human creativity and innovation. While an algorithm might be able to suggest something you will like, the act of creation comes from a human. When we couple the best parts of humanity, emotion, compassion, and creativity, with the best of AI, logic, precision, scale, and speed – the human potential becomes limitless. Nevertheless, people should always come first. Agile organisations put people first and recognise performance development and engagement as priority so that everyone can create value quickly, collaboratively, and effectively.

We can’t predict the future, but we can all become agile -the ability to renew ourselves, adapt, change quickly, and succeed in a rapidly changing, ambiguous, turbulent environment.

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