It’s Hard to be Agile if You Keep Looking Back

Hard to be Agile if You Keep Looking Back

Even with the right mindset and a well-defined strategy, an organization without processes for dealing with the unexpected runs the risk of being derailed by change.

By Diana L. Mirakaj

From time to time, everyone likes to reminisce about the good old days. Memories are a great way to honor the past and keep the present day in perspective, while still maintaining focus on future objectives. At the same time, though, it’s important not to let the past get in the way of the future; otherwise, the likelihood of achieving your goals declines significantly.

In business, particularly in the technology arena, legacy practices and poorly addressed challenges often impede innovation, which can quickly limit the potential of future growth. Those practices don’t pertain solely to selling outdated products or services, and the challenges aren’t always obvious. They include the unexpected: shifting market dynamics, economic downturns, new and disruptive competitors. The list goes on.

Whether culturally engrained – or rooted in management – the inability to adapt to change has led to the downfall of more businesses than anyone would care to count. The bridge from adaptability to agility is an important one to cross. A business lacking agility is one with a very short horizon.

Agility is the ability to change quickly and nimbly in dynamic environments to remain ahead of the game. Put another way, it’s the ability to respond in a timely, effective, and sustainable manner when changing circumstances demand it. Agility allows organizations to sense opportunities and threats, resolve problems, and adjust resources to react appropriately to change while maintaining an advantageous market position, and to do all of that even better than the competition. Agility is also a strategic enabler: It drives competitive advantage, which leads to improved financial performance.

The economic role that agility plays isn’t exclusive to organizations of a certain size, revenue, or industry sector. But there are certain behaviors and practices that support and enhance agility within an organization. Many of those are related to a company’s 3C’s – its Capabilities, Competencies, and Capacities – a concept that The 2112 Group discusses with vendors and solution providers in the context of channel optimization.

An organization that has the skills and acumen required to navigate its path despite unforeseen changes is one with a capacity for continuous transformation and improvement. Agility isn’t a habit; it’s in a company’s DNA, allowing it to maintain the core of a strategic business plan while making the adjustments needed to accommodate operational modifications. A company’s 3C’s should allow it to do the following:

1. Conduct continuous assessments: The status quo is never good enough; always monitor performance to ensure that strategic objectives are achieved. Implement changes as needed.
2. Modify resources if and when necessary: Make the most of every investment – human, technical, and product – even if that means redirecting resources to address new challenges.
3. Make frequent enhancements: There’s always room for improvement. It’s not a matter of making things faster and cheaper; it’s about being smarter and more efficient.

Even with the right mindset, best practices, and a well-defined strategy, an organization that fails to implement processes for dealing with unanticipated threats runs the risk of being derailed by change.

Leave thoughts of “how things used to be” for a walk down memory lane; there’s no place for nostalgia in your business plan. Agility means never looking back.

dianaDiana L. Mirakaj is president and chief operating officer of The 2112 Group. You can follow her on Twitter at @dlenam.