“Necessity is the mother of invention” goes the old adage. As I look around these days, I might argue that necessity is the mother of agility. Six months ago, if your company decided it was going to figure out a way for everyone to be able to work from home, it probably would have started a committee, run a few pilots, and ended up making a bunch of exceptions for those managers who just didn’t feel like it worked for their teams. Fast forward, and that same company made that change in a week in March.

We are already being far more agile than before because, well, we have to. Let’s consider the favorable conditions for agility: customer wants and needs are changing frequently; the problems are complex and so are the solutions; it’s desirable to test and make changes throughout the process; it’s okay to make “mistakes” and learn. I’d say that the current environment checks all the boxes! The time is right to embrace agility.

But we can only be nimble when we have the right culture and agree on the behaviors that make it work. Here are the four primary behaviors your team must adopt to be agile:

  1. Value people over process and tools. Build projects around motivated individuals, ensuring they have the environment and support they need, and that they feel trusted to get the job done. ​
  2. Prioritize working prototypes over excessive documentation​. Working prototypes allow teams to optimize the use of resources because they’re doing the minimum amount to learn, adjust their products and services, and then move forward​. Lots of documentation can slow down that iterative process. Have you ever built 45 versions of a deck to update a leadership team on your progress? Did that feel like embracing agility to you?
  3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation. The end goal is meeting customer needs. Full stop.​ Shift the mindset from delivering exactly whatever you said you would, or what you always have, to responding to what the customer needs right now.
  4. Respond to change over following a plan. The plan is not the point! Heads-down execution doesn’t work when things are changing day by day. Ensure your team is observing the world, talking to customers, and getting together daily to learn from each other and adjust.

Is your team living these behaviors daily? They might not, because business agility is not easy. If you still have a ways to go, start with a changing mindset. You want your team (and yourself!) to think like this every day:

Want to learn more about how to build a culture of business agility? Contact me at jpage@rootinc.com.

April 17, 2020

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