Agility matters to your business more than ever—here's how to get it right

Coworkers discuss the status of a project and how to reallocate resources due to shifting goals.

Agility in business is nothing new. Businesses have always needed to be agile—experimenting, adapting, and changing—to succeed. But the difference today is the speed and scale of change required. We live in a fast-paced digital-first world. Technologies are constantly evolving and customers, partners, and regulators have new expectations and demands. Add to that the disruption wreaked by COVID-19 and the need for real agility becomes starkly apparent.

Even before the pandemic, around 90% of organizations had implemented some Agile methodologies into their operations, ranging from Scrum to Kanban. But the sudden switch to remote working required businesses to switch from “doing” Agile to “being” agile. Companies had to shift their focus to realizing and sustaining the full potential of the business, regardless of internal or external change.

To master the three A's of work management—agility, alignment, autonomy—listen to our webinar with 451 Research.

Agility requires leadership to be aligned on a vision. It requires constant learning and adaptation in the progress toward clear business outcomes, not just outputs. So, how do businesses achieve agility in this disruptive digital age? We believe there are three steps for success:

1. Anchor all work to an outcome.

Every organization has a strategy. The challenge is to make that strategy meaningful to everyone in the business by defining your outcomes. Think about outcomes from a customer viewpoint, not just your internal aspirations—and communicate them clearly to the business. Next, connect people’s work to metrics that measure progress towards those outcomes. Have regular check-ins to determine whether people are working on the right things. If not, pivot quickly to stay on track—showing people how their work contributes to meaningful business outcomes.

2. Adopt a systems mindset.

A systems mindset requires collaboration across the organization. Create networks rather than hierarchies. Break down silos so everyone is working toward common outcomes. It’s about aligning and coordinating work across teams and departments. It’s about optimizing the flow of value when pursuing a customer outcome, from the initial research and ideas phase, through testing and development, to market launch. A systems mindset means tying everything you’re doing back to the big picture and adding value at every stage.

3. Experiment. Learn. Steer.

Work in small batches. When you’re working on something valuable that will deliver a solution to the customer, start with the smallest thing you can do first to solve the problem. Then build on it. Think about your next best move each time. Learn from each stage and adapt. You don’t have to stick to your original plan. And don’t let confirmation bias affect the direction you’re going. Solve your business problem step-by-step and learn as you go, so you can take advantage of fast-moving situations.

Connect everything with work management and a single system of record.

One thing we’ve learned about trying to get everyone in an agile organization to converge on the same outcomes is that you need a single system of record for all work. With a centralized work management platform acting as the connective tissue aligning everything to your strategic outcomes, work can be coordinated across teams and geographies.

In our on-demand webinar, “How to Embrace Business Agility: 3 Easy Steps to Prepare for Success,” learn why agility matters and how businesses can learn to adapt at pace.