Building a resilient agile business depends greatly on how fast and imaginative you respond to potential problems and challenges. Here’re some of my thoughts on it from my experience solving agility problems in many startups and established enterprises. Read on…
Last week, I did a presentation for 200 people at a life insurance company in Jakarta. The topic of my presentation was agility, entrepreneurship, and innovation. It might have been shyness or they didn’t understand my English, but when I asked them ‘who has played with ChatGPT’, there were only a few hands in the air.
In the past years, everyone has experienced a rapid change in their lives: in business, in the economy, in technology, and in our personal lives. Most leaders are overwhelmed and speak about ‘business resilience’, ‘business agility’, and ‘how to survive and thrive’. In a way, these are familiar topics. Leaders 50 years ago asked the same questions.
An agile business model is possible only if they compete and thrive in the digital age by swiftly responding to quick shifts in market behavior and emerging opportunities with innovative, digitally-enabled business solutions. Today, the difference is the speed at which ‘new stuff’ happens. So as a leader (and we all are leaders!), how do you lead?
There are many organizations of varying natures that have successfully adopted the agile business model. Bridge Global, a leading agile custom software development company that I founded in 2005, has set examples with self-organization, proactiveness, and an innovative mindset.
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An agile mindset is crucial for an agile business
In my perspective, business agility is simple. It’s like becoming a river, moving along with the movement of the water. When a rock pops up, the water flows around or over it. It doesn’t try to change or move the rock.
The implementation is less straightforward. The larger the organization, the more people we need to take along on the ride. And that ride is what a leader needs to have clarity on.
To become like a river, leaders must first show what behavior is expected. This is what agilists call ‘an agile mindset’. For example, becoming transparent; entrepreneurship; collaborating. These vague things need to be defined and repeated all the time (if you have kids, you know what I mean!).
Change in behavior is the most essential starting point toward agile business development. Consulting a seasoned agile implementation agency that helps you with agile ways of working is a great option.
We also need to change structures and processes. Instead of functional silos and static roles and responsibilities, we want to ‘free’ people to move to the work they can have the most impact on.
This means defining outcomes and then asking people to self-select, and self-organize for those outcomes to be achieved. The new buzzword here is ‘agile swarming’.
Agile Swarming: the new buzzword
Within the self-organized teams that evolve, we want the teams to change their ways of working. Scrum can be a good starting point for a team to work in a more agile way. With a more mature team, we’d give them space to figure out their process by themselves (as long as the outcomes are created, we’re comfortable as leaders).
Think about an instance wherein an agile team is lagging to complete its tasks. When the rest of the team gathers around, gets on board, and starts swarming to accomplish the task, it is called agile swarming.
In short, when agile teammates with fitting skillsets collaborate to complete a task that a group of team members struggles or fails to fulfill, it is agile swarming. This collaboration technique helps in quickly finishing tasks and retain the workflow and delivery on track.
Components of resilience
To me, resilience has 2 components: ‘keep your current engine running’ and ‘create an innovation engine’. The current core business needs should continue. People have been organized to serve customers for years or decades. We want to keep servicing those customers while making the way we serve them more agile.
The advantage here is we create teams that can adjust when the life cycle of a product or service has expired or circumstances change. The teams adjust, change, and optimize, so the core engine runs. To create the future, we need an innovation engine. This is about having agile teams use their new way of thinking and working to explore ‘new stuff’.
These could be variants of older services or could be existing products for a new market. It could also be completely new stuff (how to use AI to do underwriting; how to help doctors make decisions using AI as a wild example). For this, you need entrepreneurial people. You need collaboration with startups. You need incentives for people to search for ‘the next big thing’ and provide them support to execute on that.
To create this resilience, we need audacious leaders. The first engine, using agility to optimize, is a logical starting point. The second is a bolder move and will make a difference in the end.
We need innovation, not copying!
One big challenge I see in my day-to-day work with enterprises and startups in Indonesia is everyone copies each other. One bank creates a digital banking app, and everyone starts doing the same. Successful startups build superapps, all the big companies build superapps. Startups focus on creating farmer-to-consumer marketplaces, and suddenly there are 20 of them in a year. That’s a game of catching up, not innovation.
If we want to create a unique future, we need to be looking outside (other countries?!). We need to set up a team that looks for the new stuff, that scans journals, the internet, the globe, to see what’s happening. And we need to create the execution engine to build ventures or internal teams that bring these new services to market (at speed). That’s the not-so-simple part of creating resilience.
How do we do it?
The question then becomes ‘how to start this movement or transformation?’. And the answer I would give is: look for entrepreneurial people. Hire people with a founder’s mindset, ready to do things differently, asking ‘why is this so?’, breaking some rules along the way, making ‘shit happen’.
If you succeed in it, you will definitely be building a resilient agile business that exerts positive impacts on productivity, work quality, and employee fulfillment.