How to put agile business practices in motion

Business agility is a term thrown about a lot in business: but do people really understand what it means and how to achieve it? Talent Party CEO Ben Hutt gives his views.

An agile business does not necessarily equate to a successful business. Too often I hear business leaders talking about the importance of being agile and why business should be agile. Less often, I hear people talking about how to make use of your agility.

You might think that this is nitpicking, but to me, it’s crucial. It’s the same as how practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.

It takes time, personal commitment and a hard backbone to set-up business processes to allow an organisation or team to be agile. Given all the effort, how can you press home the advantage of your agility?

Respond to issues quickly, efficiently and don’t get emotional

If I had to sum up the benefit of an agile business in a sound bite, it would be “the ability to identify and adapt to pressures, market or otherwise, quickly.” Sounds simple enough but it’s difficult in practice.

The key is to be fast, efficient and, at times, brutally decisive.

Take hiring as an example. Once you have gone through the process of identifying talent, interviews, negotiating pay and bringing a new recruit on-board, the next step is often overlooked – assessing the effectiveness and cultural fit of your new hire.

If they don’t work out, the most important thing to do is act swiftly and part ways. While it might seem harsh, the damage a negative and ineffective employee can do to a business is huge but because you have an agile business, you can respond to this issue, rectify it and move on.

Don’t be afraid to stand for what you believe in – others will follow

According to entrepreneur Derek Sivers, the most important person in a movement is not the leader but the first follower. To Sivers, the first follower is the proof that what you are doing is right and an indication that more will follow.

In one of my favourite TED talks, Sivers shows a video and tells the story of a “lone nut” dancing on his own, on a grassy hill, at a music festival. For a little while, the dancer is on his own and trying something new but then, all of a sudden, someone comes up and joins him. This is the key point. The dancer now embraces this follower, they join together and very quickly it snowballs. Onlookers see what they are doing and join, and all of a sudden, one lone nut is now a mob.

If you truly believe in what you want to achieve, others will follow. Whether that is making every effort to hire the perfect employee or doing whatever it takes to succeed, inspiration leads followers. Great leaders are agile and able to respond and evolve to changes in their environment, focusing on evolving the plan, but staying true to their cause.

Embrace your purpose – it’s more than a line on your email signature

Every single passionate, driven and successful business leader I have met has one thing in common – a clear, articulate and ambitious purpose. The difference between these leaders and those few who actually change the world, is the daily embracing and living of their purpose.

Your purpose is what defines your company, what makes it different from your competitors and what elevates it from an entity that people transact with, to an ideal that you and your teams engage with and live every day.

>See also: Purpose-led organisations set to thrive

By embracing your purpose, you will start to notice things begin to align. Decisions that were once hard are now clear cut, uncertainty that held you back is now gone and you can make the best use of your agility and act swiftly and appropriately.

Another huge benefit of living your purpose is that your teams will start to embrace the purpose too. This is what enables a company to change the world. Your goals and ambitions will stop being just messages that your sales team say because it’s in their script – they will become something they believe and deliver in their everyday interactions with prospects and customers.

Agility is more than a business mindset; it’s a practice. Once you shift from thinking agile, to acting agile, you will quickly see the advantages. Remember, don’t just practice – practice perfectly. Stay true to your purpose, but be agile in how you deliver outcomes and adapt to changing circumstances.

Further comment and analysis: The five continuous improvement paradoxes

Praseeda Nair

Kellen Rempel

Praseeda was Editor for from 2016 to 2018.