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!

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Goal Setting – Are You Being Strategic?

Road-Map-290x220Every business owner, regardless of how big or small their business is, needs goals to keep their business moving forward, their employees motivated and to maintain momentum. There are many different approaches to goal setting, and each one can be as successful as the next.

As a business owner you should define short and long term goals, and establish a plan for how to get there. Goals set for your business should align with your personal goals, and be fueled by a big-picture, forward-thinking perspective. Without strategic goals, you may struggle to find the path from where your business currently stands to where you’d like it to be.

I’ve put together some goal-setting tips that should help you achieve even your most ambitious business goals!

Tips for Goal Setting

Determine who you are and where you stand. Determine what strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats may be helping or hindering you from reaching success. Ask yourself why you began the company — does that old spark still drive your business as it is now? Revisit your personal vision and reflect on how your company has evolved.

Write your goals down. Putting your goals in writing and sharing them with your team confirms your commitment to achieving them. While brainstorming is a great place to start, without writing down your goals your focus will fade. Force yourself to focus by outlining specific goals you and your company can work toward.

You may even find writing your goals down to be exciting! In my experience, goal setting brings out the optimism and ambition in myself and my colleagues, and acts as a reminder of how much good we all have to look forward to.

Have realistic expectations. Setting unattainable goals won’t lead you to success, and it certainly won’t give you the motivation needed to get there. Goals should be attainable through hard work and effort, and focused around the most important aspects of your business. The goals you set should challenge you and your team.

Establish milestones so you can track and measure success. By failing to plan, you are essentially planning to fail! Think about short and long-term success, and visualize what will help keep you and your team motivated. Have a schedule and set monthly milestones so you can track whether or not you are accomplishing the things you wish to. While tracking your success (or failures… because it happens!) you will be able to see what roadblocks lay ahead, and how you can get over them to come out on top. Once you reach a milestone don’t forget to celebrate!

Think of how your goals affect your whole team. While goal setting, be tactical and set goals for individuals, different departments, and the business as a whole. Have employees contribute their knowledge and ideas when goal setting to help keep goals realistic and attainable. Sharing goals with the whole team can encourage team effort, and a sense of responsibility.

Know your plan of action. Create a plan that supports your specific goals. When reviewing your plan be sure to think about how you will tackle issues as they occur, how issues will affect the team, clients, stakeholders, and whomever else is connected, and whether or not you are clinging to goals that no longer make sense for your business.

Fear of failure should never hold you back from setting goals and reaching for them! Effective and strategic goal setting will allow for individual accountability, and most importantly, will help keep your business aligned with your vision, and on the track to success.

Do you have short and long term goals set for your company? Do you feel like your goals are attainable and motivating? Tell me about your experiences by commenting below.


Strategic Planning Sessions – a Manager’s Perspective

strategic planning imageMid-sized business owners are tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that their vision, mission and goals are understood and executed throughout the company.  However, what often happens is that some employees, while clear about what these are, do not know how their specific job helps to support them. Unfortunately, there is a possibility that most will remain unaware of the existence of the vision, mission and goals.

Therein lies the problem many mid-sized companies face, which is communication and support for the overall business strategy. The key to conveying these fundamentals is insuring your key management understands these so they are equipped to relay this message to their staff.

In my role as a business advisor, I am often called on to facilitate strategic planning sessions with senior management teams.  I’d like to share with you an interview with one of the marketing managers who participated in a recent strategic planning session.

Q: Before the session, were you clear about what your role was within the organization?

A: No. It made my daily duties innocuous and frustrating because I did not have a clear understanding of what I was supposed to be doing. Being part of a smaller business often requires employees to wear many different hats and sometimes that can blur the lines of responsibility and accountability.

Q: How were you feeling about the company and your role before the meeting?

A: I felt my skills were not being best used in helping to move the company forward. There was no clear goal in sight or a clear idea of who we are. I became increasingly frustrated and unsure about what I should be spending my energy on.

Q: What were you hoping to get out of this meeting?

A: I was hoping to gain a clear sense of the identity of the company, roles of people in company, and vision of where the company will be next year, two years and beyond.

Q: How do you feel this session has helped you in your role?

A: Projects and initiatives are more defined in terms of relating back to the company’s identity. There is now an accountability structure in place so projects don’t fall by the wayside.

Q: Was the session valuable?

A: 150% yes!  Every business needs to understand who it is, where it has been, where it is now, and where it is going. Without this direction, you are floating on the ocean without a compass.  For me, it has brought clarity, defined goals and a structure to help measure success and shortcomings.  It has created cohesiveness and has tied everything together to reach a common goal.

Strategic planning sessions get the whole organization pointed in the same direction and can catapult your results to even higher levels of success!

Do you feel your organization could benefit from a strategic planning session? If so, in what way do you think you could benefit from this? I look forward to hearing from you in the comments below.