In business, agility, not perfection, is the single most important indicator of success, even having an agile methodology belief. While the pressure to move faster and work smarter becomes more and more relentless, so, too, does the pressure to achieve perfection. Too often, product owners and business leaders hide behind closed doors, tweaking and fine-tuning, thinking that if they could just get everything perfect, then success will follow. Meanwhile, businesses that launch their offerings in the early stages achieve much higher success rates.
The Definition of Agile
What is it exactly that allows some product offerings to flourish and prosper while others stagnate and die? The answer points in one consistent direction. Agility, not perfection, is the single most important indicator of success.
Traits of an Agile Enterprise
Many organizations, in pursuit of growth, implement hierarchical org structures designed to enforce policies set forth by senior management. But an enterprise must understand that implementing a chain of command is not enough – and is even counterproductive to success. The org structure of an agile enterprise doesn’t look much like a pyramid, but instead, it looks like a network; a cluster of nodes banded together. The culture of an agile enterprise values experimentation in which contributors of all levels are encouraged to test ideas in the marketplace and then let data – not the opinions of senior management – guide future decisions.
Agile enterprises value transparency. By reframing expectations and understanding that teams are primarily in charge of discovering, not constructing, truly agile enterprises achieve results through rapid testing and learning. In similar fashion to agile software development, agile enterprises iterate on an ongoing basis, prioritizing the workload based on market or customer demand. Paradoxically enough, transparency within organizations sometimes leads to conflict. But, in a truly agile enterprise, that's OK and even encouraged. When teams engage in positive conflict, they not only foster more productive behavior, but they also achieve innovation in ways that rigid, bureaucratic org structures simply cannot.
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Uncertainty is common in agile enterprises. They understand that business is unpredictable, and success or failure is driven by the entrepreneurial energy of its teams. Further, by not only accepting uncertainty but embracing it, agile enterprises have the ability to move quickly and capitalize on new opportunities or stave off emerging market threats. The real-time nature of a modern business is no different than a stock market, with all of the implied volatility. Agile enterprises flourish under these circumstances and use uncertainty as a competitive advantage by making small, continuous changes rather than large, seismic changes all at once.
Operating on the Edge of Chaos
To serve as a counterbalance to the uncertainty and randomness of modern business, agile enterprises recognize the need for structure. Often times, this takes shape in the form of a shared operating platform where ideas are generated, shared, tested, and optimized. But, an organization simply cannot plug a platform into its existing structure and expect agility to follow. There is evidence to suggest that there are contingencies based on the structural, systems, behavioral, and cultural contexts of the organization. Business leaders would be wise to consider these contingencies as part of their strategy.
Pushing decision-making to the lowest possible level is an effective way to increase the agility of your business as soon as today. Long term organizational structure changes are rarely so straightforward. Fortunately, with the right technology partner, equipping your organization with the tools is as simple as it is worthwhile.
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