What is business agility?
In this article you will discover a short definition of business agility and its main benefits.
In the present day, many companies are experiencing financial difficulties. Each has its own set of reasons for battling adversity: ranging from strengthening competition, to changes in the economy, and even the passing of time, which leads to obsoletion for certain products or services. Yet, profit is not the only aspect that ensures the survival of an organisation. It's also a matter of adaptability to market changes, and the rate of a company’s reaction to them.
Competition hardens as the technological landscape changes, customer expectations grow, and time-to-market decreases. In the face of these pressures, how can companies become more flexible? Business agility may, indeed, be the solution.
What is business agility?
In general, being agile means having the ability to move, evolve and react swiftly. In the corporate setting, business agility refers to the ability of an organisation to respond quickly to change. Thus, it is beneficial for companies to adapt to agile working and move towards a more flexible and responsive way of working. By becoming agile, companies show preparedness in the face of unexpected market disruptions.
In essence, business agility consists of a set of principles that enable leaders and their organisations to anticipate and respond to change. Leaders make this possible through continuous iteration and adaptation to new business processes. Pete Holliday, business agility expert, believes that "agile is becoming the new standard". In one of his articles, he refers to business agility as having "important things to teach us that will enable us to work with increasing levels of complexity and the change we face daily".1
He is firmly convinced that agility "will become the standard way of working as traditional ways of working become less and less practical and productive" and adds:
The best thing you can do to ensure your future career success is to learn the basics of agility today, and I mean now, especially if you're an executive!
Business agility: the benefits
Business agility is fundamental for companies in the VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world. The benefits are especially pronounced when comparing agile organisations to traditional ones that are static, siloed and hierarchical. In agile organisations, flexible teams make quick decisions and work in shorter cycles based on continuous learning. This means combining speed and adaptability with stability and efficiency.
What's more, senior management sees the value in business agility, with leaders leveraging agility to strengthen organisational strategies, structures and processes. They also rely on people and technology to take full advantage of new opportunities. In order to reach their goals, leaders entrust decision making to the teams who have the most relevant and up-to-date information.
For organisations and their leaders, business agility has many benefits, including:
- higher competitiveness
- greater customer-centricity
- decreased time-to-market, raised profits and reduced costs
- and more engaged teams who are, in turn, more productive.
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Business agility: a priority for the management of today
Change has become a constant in the business world and the ability to lead it well has morphed into a vital trait for leaders. Even with the emergence of new, more agile leadership models, management remains the primary driver of change.
Thus, the transformation of organisations and the adoption of business agility is a large component of successful leadership. Whilst used to complex structures and complicated processes, managers still find business agility challenging. This is despite its simplicity to implement, something which makes it powerful, and turns it into a must-have for any organisation.
In fact, many companies are convinced of the benefits of business agility. Even so, it appears that many still resist implementing business agility. A McKinsey Quarterly survey, conducted among 2,500 business leaders, found that three-quarters of respondents across all industries and geographies reported business agility as a top priority.2 Yet, only 4% of respondents said their companies had implemented an agile transformation. Therefore, it is safe to say that leaders are still battling to overcome the challenges of adopting business agility, turning it into reality, and scaling it up.
Agile transformation might be a demanding process, yet, one thing is clear: business agility is worth it. To enable agile transformation in their organisations, leaders can start by:
- understanding its meaning
- acknowledging its benefits
- applying its principles
- and identifying the areas where their organisation can apply it.
1 '10 things I learnt about the future of work in 2019', Pete Holliday, peteholiday.com, 2020.
2 'How to create an agile organization', McKinsey, October, 2017.