Life for businesses isn’t comfortable any more!
If you’re selling to other companies, you have to be ready to address their changing needs as they’re pressed from new regulations, competition, changes in their markets, and internal employee upheavals.
Are you selling to consumers? Competition from small, entrepreneurial business is increasing, carving out some of the most lucrative parts of your markets – and by nature those entrepreneurial businesses are agile!
WHAT IS AGILITY?
In essence, it’s responding to a need quickly and maintaining that response. When your customers see that you’re able to do that effectively, they will move more of their custom to you.
WHAT GOES INTO AGILITY?
Here’s the rub. Agility comes primarily from within the organization. Sure, direction as to where the agile change is needed usually proceeds from leadership, but the ability to change the business’s systems comes from within, and it includes everybody!
FOUR NECESSARY SYSTEMS
These include four systems within any organization: the system of direction, the system of team, the system of involvement, the system of measurement. And these four are intimately interwoven.
THE SYSTEM OF DIRECTION
Now you might wonder why I’m describing direction as a system and not just a statement made from leadership to the business. Leaders who spell out direction can’t stop at just saying “Here’s where we’ve got to go”, they have to have a listening plan as well. What’s that mean? It means that leaders have to be ready to listen to employees tell them why the organization ‘can’t get there’, and what will have to change internally to get there. After all, who can better answer that than the people who have to make the system work to meet the new requirements? So first of all, an agile business has to have interactivity between leadership and staff to make the changes in direction work.
THE SYSTEM OF TEAM
I’ve chosen the word team rather than teamwork, and there’s a reason. Leadership in a company has to build a sense of team – winning team – for a company to be agile. This is a combination of clear direction, involvement, and demonstrated results that clearly communicate to the whole company when we are doing things right and when we’re doing them wrong. When the balance among these is struck, the company becomes a winning team. And it’s a known fact that people love being part of a winning team.
THE SYSTEM OF INVOLVEMENT
There’s a great deal of misunderstanding regarding the shared involvement of leadership and staff in an organization, with all sorts of conflicting opinions and declarations in print. But the fact is agility means the entire organization is ready to change directions quickly and effectively, and staff involvement can’t be left out – it’s absolutely essential. Why is that? Because it’s the staff who make and deliver the service (or product) the company is providing, and they’re the only ones who understand the day-to-day details of making that delivery work. If they are NOT involved, expensive mistakes will result, along with frustrated employees and unhappy customers. This involvement is a combination of two-way communication, clear measurement, and trust between leadership and staff.
THE SYSTEM OF MEASUREMENT
Financial measurements are crucial for evaluating the health of an organization – but they happen after the fact. Discovering that the organization’s costs are rising or profits are dwindling doesn’t happen until well after the situation occurred that MADE these financials obvious. Both leadership and staff have to develop ways to monitor the key activities within the organization that affect these financials. Process cycle times,
responsiveness to customer inquiries or problems, and speedy dealings with internal failures are crucial to monitor daily, and the monitored results (measures!) have to be available to those employees who can fix the problem NOW.
When you budget the time to build these four systems into your organization you will see a reduction in these five areas:
- A reduction in turnover
- A reduction in conflict
- A reduction in complaints from staff
- A reduction in complaints from customers
- A decrease in the time needed to deal with organization and staff problems
- A reduction in operating costs
But that’s not all, at the same time, you will see increases:
- An increase in staff and leadership morale
- An increase in sales
- An increase in profits
- An increase in customer loyalty
- An increase in employee participation in improvement efforts
- An increase in the right people seeking employment in your company
Finally, you’ll have an organization that’s a genuine joy to work for – who wouldn’t want that?!