Are there best practices for staying agile in a constantly changing business environment? Baba Prasad, CEO of the Vivékin Group believes so. He outlines these practices in his book Nimble. He also summarized the five types of agility necessary for survival in a recent podcast for Knowledge@Wharton.
We all know of companies that rose to greatness on the wave of a new trend. When the next trend came along, some of these companies didn’t recognize that change was imminent. Prasad uses Digital Equipment Corporation as an example. DEC, a mainframe computing powerhouse, folded because its execs didn’t understand how the personal computer would change the world.
If we can determine what holds back leaders from taking action to address the changing world, we can improve their analytic agility. Prasad emphasizes that agility is about speed. It’s also about an effective, not a reactive response.
For Prasad, analytic agility is driven by ‘mindset and culture.’ Too often, business leaders get accustomed to doing things in one way.
Once leaders recognize the threat to their existing world, they must take action. “We are trapped in a risk-evaluation mindset where you’re trying to predict the returns and outcomes, [whereas] you need to be thinking about uncertainty,” says Prasad. To succeed, you should accept the uncertainty and start out by making small investments. Once it seems you can succeed, increase your investment in the new product or service.
The launch of a new business initiative can be hampered by a company’s culture. If your team members are used to working a certain way, expect resistance when you announce change. For example, your new service line may require everyone to work overtime for the next several months. Prasad again suggests making change incremental. Don’t try to shift your organization’s entire culture overnight. Focus on bringing one division up to speed. Maybe it’s only your engineering team that needs to do the heavy lifting at first. After that, require your testers and tech writers to put in extra hours.
Analytic agility requires you to move outside of your comfort zone. Accept that change is imminent. Then, take small steps in the direction you want to go — both culturally and operationally.