Building An Agile Business

Bob Schultek Author of
The Gauntlet

Urgency, complexity, and uncertainty define today’s market. Thriving in such a market compels us to build agile businesses that pursue perpetual innovation while preserving efficiency – innovations that adapt to meet customers’ real, changing needs and that steadily improve internal processes, including how these businesses may be led and managed.

An agile business demonstrates three characteristics:

  1. Customer centricity: they sustain an external-focus and growth mindset, soliciting customer input and ongoing feedback, to guide their pursuit of innovations that produce new advantages for customers which create value for them and for the business, afterwards validating this value creation with the customers.
  2. Decentralization: they encourage individuals to think like owners and to share accountability, while promoting personal growth potential. By operating in smaller, localized business units, often with their own P & Ls, employees can see a direct line between their contributions, the profitability of their mini-businesses, and their own growth opportunities.
  3. Small Team Focus: they rely on small, autonomous, cross-functional and highly interactive teams that decide how to deliver innovations and get work done, following established work rules, and operating with exceptional transparency that enables everyone to assess team status, progress, and problems. These small teams are better able to fully complete their assignments, while coping with complexity and unpredictability, by (a) focusing on narrowly defined projects with short cycle times, enabling rapid reactions to feedback and changes, and a faster ROI, (b) working without interruption by determining the highest priorities when they start, and staying with these throughout the project, limiting work-in-process delays that increase costs and constrain progress, and (c) auditing their performance afterwards, led by team members, to confirm best practices and identify potential process improvements.

    In next week’s post, we’ll explore the team performance metrics that enable these teams to succeed.

Which of these agile business characteristics reflect your business operations?

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