How to See Business Agility: Adaptable and Resilient Management Actions

More of my clients say they want business agility. (That's a good thing.) Yet, we don't share a common definition of business agility.

My clients mostly discuss their mindset. Mindset might help people, but it's not sufficient. Instead, let's consider how to see management's adaptable and resilient actions. Those actions show that managers change their actions in the face of new information or feedback.

Actions matter when it comes to business agility. And management actions matter the most.

Actions Over Mindset

Why do I focus on management actions?

Mindset is how we think about our work. However, everyone works as part of a system. That system doesn't allow just any action. The system rewards and punishes specific actions. That's why people's actions differ from their mindset.

Since managers create and refine the culture, they can create an environment that supports business agility.

An Environment that Supports Business Agility

Here's what I see when managers start to create an environment that supports business agility:

  • Recognize when the market changes. Or, recognize when the organization needs to change its market. Or, disrupt themselves before the market changes and makes their business obsolete.
  • Adapt to the changing market. Maybe experiment with changing their current products and services. Possibly, create new products and services to disrupt their current market.
  • Exhibit resilient behavior. Instead of detailed plans, how can management make small plans and learn from them? What first step can you take and learn from? (See Modern Management: Encourage Experiments and Learning.)
  • Learn fast. Do all of this in a “reasonable” amount of time. How fast can you define and learn from a management experiment?

You might recognize the principles from the Modern Management Made Easy books here.

Yes, your context matters for all of this. A SaaS-based organization can create different experiments than a hardware product organization. And a large organization with multiple lines of business will encounter much more difficulty than a startup. (Often, that's because the large organization has so many processes they need to follow.)

My definition of business agility:

Creating an adaptable and resilient organization, often starting by changing the management practices.

(Read What’s the Difference Between Resilience and Adaptability? to see the difference between resilience and adaptability.)

Possible Questions to Assess Your Business Agility

Here are some questions you might like to understand your current business agility:

Agile strategy questions:

  • How often do you reassess your strategy? (Which customers do you serve, with which products and services?)
  • What's your cycle time for your project portfolio decisions? (See Why Minimize Management Decision Time.)
  • How quickly can you change your portfolio decisions?

Operational agility questions:

  • How much time do you need to start a project?
  • Where do you have flexibility with your roadmap and backlog? (See Large Features and Long Deadlines Are Gantt Charts.)
  • What's your typical cycle time to see some value out of each project? See the feedback loop posts.)
  • Does anything prevent a team from releasing its own value as soon as they think it's ready?

You might need other questions. Each of these questions asks about friction and where it exists.

Management creates your level of business agility. That's why management actions matter.

Management Actions Create Business Agility

There is no One Right Way to create business agility. You might need different actions from your managers.

Instead of focusing on mindset, take a long, hard look at your actions. Can managers create an adaptable and resilient organization? Often using experiments and learning? If so, you're probably on your way to business agility.

If not? Consider your first small step to adaptability and resilience. Then, you'll achieve a whole lot more business agility.

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