Agile businesses – who needs them?

My friend, Julian Weiss, will be giving a talk at the Fourth Techshoret Conference about agile software. For the non-geeks like me, this means new software that has evolved through teamwork to ensure rapid delivery to the customer. It is the inverse of the established regulated methodology, which is perceived as slow.

In a country like Israel, where growth has become dependent on innovation, agility is a major contributing factor of that commercial evolution. For example, part of the raison d’etre of the country’s successful cleantech industry has been the rush to market; quickly converting back-of-the-envelope concepts in to actual revenue streams.

The Financial Times newspaper picked up on this same theme in a management blog. Agility, “how well a firm anticipates and responds to environmental changes”, is not purely about IT changes.

Fast decision-making is the engine of agility. The EIU survey found that “rapid decision-making and execution” was the most critical trait of an agile organization, while in a separate question slow decision-making was cited as the biggest obstacle to increasing agility. McKinsey found that “overly centralized, slow, or complex decision-making/approval processes” were cited by 50%  of respondents as the barrier most likely to hamper agility, a factor cited twice as frequently as next most common barrier. Two of the three elements cited as promoting agility in the McKinsey survey also dealt with decision-making., including decision-making authority pushed as far down the organization as possible (cited by 39%) and clearly defined decision-making authority (30%)

The blog goes on to describe the importance of agility; securing better revenue and stronger employee engagement.

In my view, much of this is obvious. Find a way to be quick, without compromising on quality, and get the completed job out to the customer.

But there’s a big hidden snatch: Many organisations, big or small, come filled with historical internal hindrances. Identifying those issues and resolving them is an important prerequisite to greater flexibility. Creating agility is a process in itself.

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