Agile businesses have some distinct advantages over their slow, cumbersome counterparts. If there’s a new technology that emerges to make an operational process more efficient, they can capitalize on it, integrating it and making use of it seamlessly. If a new competitor emerges, they can institute new changes to remain competitive—and possibly gain an edge over their newfound rival.
Some of the most successful businesses in history have been ones that were able to pivot at a critical moment or adjust their expectations, assumptions, and strategies to accommodate new information. In other words, they were more agile.
The question is, how can you make your business more agile?
Learn More About Strategic Change
For starters, you can learn more about strategic change, and its importance to your business’s potential success. Strategic change management is an entire field of study, dedicated to helping business leaders identify market changes, brainstorm opportunities for innovation, and eventually integrate new changes into an organization to keep up with the evolving world around them. Ideally, you’ll have at least one member of your team who specializes in understanding the theories of strategic change—and every leader in your organization will understand the importance of change.
Hire Adaptable People
While the leaders and visionaries of your organization will be the ones calling the shots and directing new changes, your employees will be the ones accepting those orders. If your workforce is slow or reluctant to adapt, it could make it nearly impossible to move forward with any change. You can fight against this by selectively hiring people who are adaptable; in your interview and screening process, look for qualities that signal ambition, adaptability, and willingness to change. With more dynamic team members, every change you make will be more efficient.
Empower Leaders With Autonomy
If you have multiple team leaders within your organization, give them more autonomy to make decisions as they relate to their specific teams. Oftentimes, companies stagnate because every individual with a good idea feels the need to “run it up the ladder” for approval before running it; during this process, the idea will either be shot down or significantly delayed. Even worse, if managers are disheartened by this process, they may give up on introducing new ideas altogether.
Instead, let your team leaders, and even individual employees incorporate new ideas as they see fit, so long as they fit into your business’s vision. As an added bonus, autonomy is highly correlated with workplace happiness, so you’ll likely see an increase in morale as well.
Build Around High-Level Objectives
Autonomy works best when every member of your organization is aligned under a singular vision. Changes in technology or procedures don’t matter much when they’re focused on the same priorities as your older models.
You can make your organization more efficient, and better judge the quality of new ideas, when you have high-level objectives dictating the priorities of the entire group. Spend some time honing these to perfection, and make sure everyone in your company, from leaders to entry-level employees, understands them.
Make Decisions in Smaller Groups
Group decision making has the power to kill innovation, and as the size of the group increases, that potential grows. There are benefits to including many different people in the decision-making process; for example, a diverse cast of voices can introduce more ideas and perspectives to the process, and if a majority of people agree on something, you can have more confidence in its efficacy.
However, you also need to consider the downsides. Seeking group approval immediately slows down the decision-making process; if you have to reach out to and talk to 10 individuals before moving forward with something, your pace of innovation will slow to a crawl. Additionally, all those extra voices and opinions could have a negative effect on the novelty of your ideas; gradually, other people’s insights can “water down” the idea until it’s no longer unique or interesting.
The way to combat this is to make decisions in smaller groups, or rely on individuals to make decisions autonomously whenever possible.
It’s also a good idea to avoid leaning too heavily on any one tool, process, system, or philosophy. Too many organizations build everything around one software platform, or one method of project management, and it restricts their future potential. Don’t “marry” your organization to anything.
Building and maintaining an agile business is difficult, but certainly possible if you make it a priority. You’ll have to make other sacrifices; for example, by lending your team leaders more autonomy, you’ll open the door to bad decisions. But in the end, agility is typically worth the tradeoff—especially for young, small organizations who need the competitive advantage (and are still growing).