Paige Erickson, Managing Director International, Adobe Workfront, explores the need to adapt to change when leaders cannot plan for it.
Before 2020, organisations embraced business intelligence to extract information from their data to deliver big strategic projects over months or years. Leaders would point to this agreed goal, and everyone in the business would start running towards it. However, as soon as the global pandemic hit, all these plans were turned on their heads. Suddenly, predicting what tomorrow would look like — let alone next quarter or next year — seemed impossible.
Unfortunately, many organisations were not capable of pivoting quick enough. While Debenhams and Topshop’s demise has caught the headlines, it is predicted that corporate insolvencies could double in 2021 unless businesses take targeted action to develop resilience and adapt to the changing world.
The ability to spin on a sixpence
To survive in the current climate, businesses today need to be reactive and capable of spinning on a sixpence. They need to be able to continuously and iteratively prioritise work based on morphing market dynamics and resources. This is not the time for rigid planning cycles. Not five years; not even five months. Rather, businesses need to be able to operate with agility and change strategy on the fly.
A recent report from respected analyst firm Forrester agrees that companies will radically redesign their priorities to compete in the future. Business used to be all about efficiency; the guiding principle for the next ten years will be agility.
A change of mindset
Agility shouldn’t be thought of as a temporary crisis response though. It needs to be thought of as an ongoing tactic that receives continued investment, attention, and refinement. Whilst there will be a “new normal” of sorts post-pandemic, this new normal will continue to shift and evolve. A change to mindset is needed.
You can’t pivot for what you can’t see. Therefore, businesses need to remove the blinkers and create continuous feedback loops from their teams, so they have critical real-time information at their fingertips whenever needed. This means having complete visibility and oversight of the entire enterprise so you can see what’s moving forward and what isn’t.
So, how do businesses facilitate a change in culture towards a more agile approach? As the strategy of the organisation is constantly changing, a starting point is to align those within the business to an agreed set of outcomes, rather than a strategy that is lacking in structure. Think about these outcomes from a customer viewpoint, not just your internal aspirations—and communicate them clearly. Next, connect people’s work to metrics that measure progress towards those organisational-level outcomes. Have regular check-ins to determine whether people are working on the right things. Staff generally work better (and harder) if they can see that the work they are doing contributes to meaningful business outcomes and that their work matters.
Next, adopt a systems mindset. Create networks rather than hierarchies. Break down silos so everyone within the organisation is working toward common outcomes. Optimise the flow of value, from the initial research and ideas phase, through testing and development, to market launch. Tie everything teams are working on back to the big picture so that they can add value at every stage.
Finally, work in bitesize batches. When you’re working on something, start with the smallest thing the business can do first to solve the problem. Then build on it. Learn from each stage and adapt. Remember, you don’t have to stick to your original plan.
Don’t create confusion, provide visibility
If you are constantly in a state of flux within the new normal, how do you avoid creating confusion and burning out your team? It is imperative that staff across the organisation have full visibility of changing strategies. A central solution with a single version of the truth is essential. Only then can teams make informed data-driven decisions that keep the business moving forward. A work management solution provides businesses with this visibility so that they can adapt to new ways of working when change is needed.
By connecting data and work across distributed teams throughout the globe, organisations can be responsive and agile; making informed decisions that achieve real business outcomes. Agility needs to run through the very DNA of the organisation.
Providing the perfect environment
Agility requires constant learning and adaptation. A work management platform provides the perfect environment to facilitate this so that companies can morph and scale up new programs with ease. Work management, in essence, acts as the connective tissue aligning everything to your strategic outcomes, so that work can be coordinated across teams and geographies via a single system of record.
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In 2021, change has become the new normal and agility is the new velocity. The pandemic has highlighted the business risk of not being able to adapt and compete in today’s quickly changing global marketplace. The businesses that are best equipped to face and adapt to the challenges that lie ahead will be those that have agility at their core.
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