How to Become an Agile Business

AgileBusinessPhotoIn today’s competitive landscape, it’s important for a business to be able to rapidly adapt to market and environmental changes. “Agile” is the buzzword associated with this ability to adapt quickly to changing situations; but what is “agile” and how can a business become an “agile business”?

Agile is a philosophy, not a process. Although originally used for software development, it’s now used by companies large and small in any industry. According to the Agile Manifesto, agile refers to:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

Becoming an agile business is a process that constantly needs work. Is it worth it? According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, agile firms grow revenue 37% faster and generate 30% higher profits.

Here are some guidelines for becoming an agile business:

Create focus. Don’t be distracted. Get rid of a long list of priorities and instead replace it with a short, manageable list of three or four items that are “must dos”. As you complete one item, add another to your list. This will keep you focused.

Communicate your vision. Communication is the key to change and change-worthy behaviour. Communicate with employees often, be transparent and give them clear and compelling reasons to embrace agility and become agile champions.

Hire the right people. The success of your business rests on hiring the right people – employees who are aligned with your vision and your values. In order to be agile, the employees you hire must be results-oriented, not task-oriented. They must be able to work within an organization that gives them the freedom and the responsibility to accomplish their jobs without a step-by-step instruction manual on how to do it.

Create autonomy. You can’t maintain a stranglehold on your employees and micromanage every decision in an agile environment. Senior managers need to lessen their direct control over day-to-day activities and give their employees control over how they do their work. Give your employees the environment and support they need and have confidence that they’ll get the job done.

Be prepared for the unexpected. Although you can’t plan for the unexpected, you can be prepared for it. Agile businesses are flexible, adaptable and expect change. They are ready for all eventualities and can quickly pivot. Changing requirements are the name of the game.

Agile is motivating. An agile environment by nature is motivating. Instead of working on the same project month after month with little change, an agile environment empowers employees to respond to changes, giving them freedom to become more than their job descriptions.

How agile is your company? Want more advice on becoming an agile business, or general advice from other business owners like you? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!


The Best Managers are the Best Communicators

As a business owner, you dedicate much of your time to communicating with your clients. While this is crucial for your business, equally important is communicating with your employees. Internal communication touches every aspect of your business from announcing the onboarding of a new client, to introducing a new product to your business line. No matter the size, industry, or type of company you own, I recommend having an internal communications process embedded in everything you do.

An internal communications process allows for the exchange of information between all members of your organization, which will save you time and money. In fact, companies with effective internal communications processes experience 47% higher total returns than those that are not effective at communicating.

I’ve outlined below 3 key elements to help you establish an effective internal communications process.

  1. Have the Right Mechanisms in Place to Keep Employees Informed

Your internal communication mechanisms must be strategic, in order to be targeted and the most beneficial. Consider your company’s current mechanisms, from the methods of communication it uses, to the way your company engages with and seeks feedback from your staff, to the way it measures if the mechanism is successful and identifies any issues for future change.

Choosing what mechanisms to use depends on your size and budget. If your company has multiple locations, you may decide to invest in passive, large-scale communication options to disseminate information. Creating an intranet (a private network only available to a company’s staff) is one great option. If your business is smaller, consider using more conventional communication channels such as an internal newsletter, e-blast, Director’s blog, or notice board. I have even seen some companies benefit from using social networking sites as their primary means of internal communication. More directed options could include Breakfast Briefs for front-line staff, a monthly Director Communications Day, scheduled Director Q&A drop-ins, or Lunch & Learns.

No matter what mechanism(s) you choose, the bottom line is that employees have access to a platform where they can receive important company information so they stay abreast of the information they need to do their job.

  1. Creating a Two-Way Loop

Having great communication mechanisms in place is vital, but ensuring that they consistently generate engagement between management and employees is a key step. It is imperative that business owners and managers actively respond to feedback received and ensure a loop is created, as opposed to a top-down form of communication. By acting on the honest feedback reported by employees encourages more of the same – staff telling it “like it is”.

  1. Measuring the Mechanisms

To ensure that the communication mechanisms you choose are working effectively, incorporating measurement indicators, such as scheduled weekly face-to-face meetings with actionable items reported for follow-up, anonymous employee surveys offered at quarterly or annual company all-staff meetings, or through specific activity surveys through the intranet, could help identify gaps, what is or isn’t working, and what methods of communication work best for your employees.

Regardless of which avenues you choose, the main goal is to ensure employees have several effective paths available to them where they can communicate with senior management and feel heard.

Communicating with your employees is essential for the productivity of your business. Does your company have an internal communications process in place?


The Right Plan Needs the Right Combination

network-1989137_1920.jpgWith the New Year now well underway, many business owners are just putting the final touches on their business plans.  That doesn’t mean, however, that adjustments can’t be made to ensure your goals can be reached in 2017.

As a business advisor for many years, when it comes to planning, I tend to come across two types of approaches: the visionary and the executor.  Both approaches have their pros and cons, but as I’ll explain, a combination is what you, as a business owner, should strive for, especially throughout the business planning process.

A visionary knows where they want to go.  They have a “big picture” vision and are often concerned with growing the company by setting goals.  However, they lack tactical deployment and detailed plan as to how to attain this vision.  They tend to not pay much attention to the processes in which their goals are met.

On the other hand, an executor’s primary concern is detail-related.  They set high performance standards but fail to align those tactics to the “big picture” of growing the business because they’re so focused on processes.

As a business owner, do these two approaches sound familiar?  Whether you’re a visionary or executor, I recommend the following steps as a way to bring both visionary and executor together when developing your plan.

  1. Have a Vision

Think “big picture.”  Have a solid idea of your current state of affairs, determine what changes you would like to make, and consider how much you want to grow and in what areas of the business.  Some examples of this might be that you want to increase revenue in your X division by 10% , perhaps you want to acquire a smaller business this year to expand your national reach,  or you want to offer an automated solution to your XX customers.

  1. Dig into the Details

Now that you know what goal you want to achieve, create a plan outlining in detail how you are going to get there. If your goal is to acquire a smaller company this year, then it makes sense that part of your plan will involve searching for available companies.  The devil is in the details as they say, so capture as much detail here so the plan can be easily executed on.

At this point you’ll also need to allocate budgets accordingly and introduce the means or tactics in which the budget will apply to.

  1. Review your progress

As with anything in business, monitor your results.  Regular progress meetings should be conducted to get an accurate picture of how your business is progressing. Most importantly, ensure you are consistently making modifications to ensure success.

A carefully thought-out plan that contains both a big picture vision and accompanying details required for implementation is crucial for success.   Ensure you share the plan with your employees so they are aware of the role they play in its execution.

While your business plan is somewhat of a blueprint, having a vision of where you want to go and how you are going to get there will position your business for success.