Age gracefully. What on earth does it mean when someone tells you to age gracefully?
Everything in popular media tells us to freeze aging– stop it in its tracks while you can. But, time moves. Technology transforms everything from customer needs to business models. Everything Ages.
The thing to remember, however, is that to age gracefully isn't to go quietly into the night. It's not getting stuck in "old ways" and it's not taking on everything new for the sake of it being new.
In business, to age gracefully is to proactively work towards innovation.
Proactively seeking innovation as a business requires agility. Business agility allows you to:
- Adapt to internal and external market changes
- Respond quickly and effectively to customer needs
- Effectively implement changes without sacrificing quality
What Does an Agile Business Look Like?
Businesses that have adopted the values of an agile business model approach change and problems differently. Agile businesses don't operate with a top-down hierarchy. Instead, teams are developed to focus on different taxonomies. Leaders, then, looking at the big picture indicate where they want innovation but they don't dictate how to accomplish it.
This allows teams to own their projects and focus on outcomes, rather than moving within the lines and working for data points.
Agile businesses value a test-and-learn approach. As such, they reflect this in their policies, making room for innovation teams to operate unhindered by red tape and short visions.
Leaders tell teams where to innovate but they don't dictate how.
Ensure that the functions that don’t operate as agile teams support the ones that do.
How to Use an Agile Approach
Using an agile approach doesn't necessarily mean every function of your business will be agile. However, it's critical that those that aren't set up agile still support the ones that are.
Often, the first areas of a business that adopt agile approaches are information technology departments, those in charge of product development, marketing and even human resources.
You'll create teams that are responsible for specific outcomes. These taxonomies will include things like customer experience, business processes, and information technology.
Those in charge of customer experience will know at all times what the customer needs, how they feel about the brand and their experiences with your business processes. The team in charge of business processes will innovate ways to make those processes smoother, more efficient and effective in response to those customer experiences.
This approach allows you to make minute changes to parts without having to overhaul the entire whole. This is what makes it possible for companies to adapt and change quickly as if it's organically growing with the market of the day.
The Key to Making it Work
Companies that started out agile and have stayed agile include heavy hitters such as Netflix and Spotify. However, many companies looking to age gracefully are transitioning to agile frameworks.
The biggest indicator of whether or not agile adoption will be successful depends upon how well your company culture can support agile teams.
You've to trust your teams and be prepared to tare down walls as necessary.
All of the benefits of an agile team goes to not if they're stuck waiting on approval for funding.
It may seem difficult to adopt agile values in areas of business that seem to need a more traditional approach. However, even areas like your accounting processes can be made more agile to support your agile teams.
For example, agile teams may have a financial adviser. Rather than waiting on approval for funding, the adviser advises the team on the risks and how the costs fit into the overall arch. This allows the team to take full ownership of their outcomes and to act quickly and efficiently in implementing innovative changes.
While not every aspect of your business needs to be agile, it does need to support and understand the agile approach.
It Takes Commitment
Converting to an agile approach takes commitment. You may start small and then expand your agile teams. But even with a slow approach, you need to empower your agile teams to be able to work the way they're supposed to. You've to implement agile values into the culture of your business inside and out even if those structures remain traditional.