Business Agility. The low-risk (r)evolution

New Thinking 3 September 2018 Stephen Mitchell

Have you seen the word ‘Agile’ in NZ’s business media recently? As good news doesn't get much media coverage, we've also seen ‘Agile’ in articles next to other words like 'fad', 'restructuring', 'hard-nosed' and even 'unethical'. In fact, nothing is further from the truth.

The dictionary tells us that ‘agility’ is the ability to move quickly and easily. During my years running businesses throughout Asia Pacific, I never met another CEO who actually didn’t want their business to be more 'agile' in the sense they could move quickly and easily. In a rapidly evolving world, successful businesses must be adaptable to survive disruption and prosper through innovation. Business Agility is simply the rigorous adoption of proven practices, structures and (most importantly in my view) the right mindset to enable this adaptability to happen.

The good news is that Business Agility is coming to a business near you. In fact, it's very likely coming to hundreds of businesses near you.

At Assurity, we’re witnessing the beginning of a ‘low-risk revolution’. Why low risk? Well, the technology world has effectively provided a replicable, long-term, global-scale, evidence-based case study. This case study is a template for the benefits and the pitfalls of the Agile methodology. It has been proven beyond doubt that Agile practices, structure and mindsets work and can sensibly be applied to richly benefit other business areas beyond IT. Human Resources, Finance, Marketing... really any department – or even an entire enterprise – can now apply Business Agility with a very high level of confidence.

With the right support and coaching, businesses around the world are experiencing tangible benefits through investment in Business Agility, including better ways of working, increased client and staff satisfaction and market success.

The most striking outcome is that an adaptive business is enabled to determine its future, by responding rapidly to change and adapting to the new.

Globally, many businesses commencing in Business Agility do acknowledge that they’re struggling in transforming entrenched culture and processes. This will become one of the positive leadership challenges of our time.

Business Agility requires genuinely new ways of working – and for many business people it requires new ways of thinking. This was precisely the experience of the technology sector at the outset of the Agile methodology. Yet the software visionaries embraced and solved the short-term leadership and cultural challenges because they could imagine the impact Agile would have on their ability to build great software quickly.

The pay back has been huge for the industry and Agile is now paving the way towards DevOps and the newer practices which are rapidly becoming the standard method for digital Product Management all around the world.

Agile has been the core approach for many of New Zealand's leading software businesses for much of this century and is now the fundamental mindset in that industry. Because it works.

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New Zealand is now poised to join the global leaders with Business Agility being implemented beyond the IT space. I recently attended the inaugural Auckland Meetup of Business Agility New Zealand (BANZ). The energy in the room was testament to the excitement brewing far beyond the technology sector. The folk in attendance represented multiple Auckland organisations, yet it was apparent that the attendees could collectively see what’s coming.

An air of excitement permeated the evening and a sense among the group that we’re at the cusp of a sea change in the way smart NZ companies can work. Business Agility is certainly not just the domain of a few large high-profile corporates. It applies to courageous businesses, large and small.