Losing Your Agility

As your business grows, your people, customers, and competitors multiply, and managing the day-to-day business consumes much of your time, becoming agile or retaining your agility matters. Agility is not lost overnight, it is the good decisions you make that erode your ability to pace with the market, adopt new practices, adapt your business model, catch a new trend or pivot in times of crisis. We share some of those decisions informed by conventional wisdom and unpick the impact these have.

#1. Build an expert leadership team

The great advice: You require a breath of expertise and experience to navigate the complexities of market opportunities, you need a leadership team of specialists. You respect and require many diverse voices, in fact these challenge you and your thinking.

The unintended consequences. Too many experts around your leadership table with too many specialist opinions are difficult to navigate and gain consensus. Your curated leadership team struggles to concede in the face of opposing opinions. You experience the burden of this difference when leaps of faith or quick decisions need making.

The fix: Focus on team behaviours and collaboration, have a mix of specialists and general managers, establish a leadership cadence with different time horizons to foster short- and long-term decision making, create universal goals.

#2. Sustain investment in your key assets

The great advice: Identifying your critical assets early on facilitates your ability to plan for and predict costs and budgets. You will not underinvest in technology, customer infrastructure, talent, or innovation.

The unintended consequence. The sustained investment creates the sense of sunk costs, hindering your desire to ditch and start again. The investment has attracted political capital, stakeholder expectations and rolling budget expectations.

The fix: Create exit criteria for when investments fall below thresholds. Consider the mix of your investment portfolio, allocating against evolutionary and revolutionary, new differentiating offerings and those that are high risk and may fail. Create investment review time periods and establish the expectation that investments must be justified frequently.

#3. Adopt a spirt of continuous improvement

The great advice: You must continually evaluate your products, practices, collateral, people experiences, events, technology. You seek an improvement and innovation culture, intended to improve processes, experiences, engagement, cost profiles.

The unintended consequence. Your ambition to fix many things has empowered your organisation who are now generating initiatives that consume many resources. This is strategic clutter, initiative overload, it has become jobs, and expected investment and career vested outcomes.

The fix: Ponder the concept of a ‘change budget’ – that the effort to change is finite, adopt the one in one out approach, for every sunrise on a new initiate another has to sunset. Map your projects to your strategic goals, rewarding alignment.

#4. Develop metrics, dashboards and KPIs

The great advice. You have data, lots of it, invest in data scientists, maybe an analytics team, get some tools and develop data dashboards, use this insight to drive decisions.

The unintended consequence. Thinking that the answers to your problems lie in your own data. Measuring your improvement in absolute not relative terms. Benchmarking yourself against yourself.

The fix: Look for weak signals as well as strong, benchmark externally where you can, create a framework of model and compare your internal data to that, and be sure you know which few measures really drive your business, and which are distractions.

#5. Democratise strategy placing it close to the business

The great advice. Place strategy in the hands of your leaders, those closest to customers, to the function, to the people and to the business.

The unintended consequences. Strategy becomes short range and functional.

The fix: own (or have someone else) long term strategy centrally, look up and out against a 3-year horizon, even if that is unclear. Aggregate multiple views inside and outside of your company, step back and up and take the view from the balcony.

In conclusion, maintaining balance and remaining agile requires the brave navigation of a CEO, do not be afraid to change your mind and always look for the unintended consequences.

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