Agility: The Emerging Strategic Imperative
As BANI becomes the commonly accepted outlook for our world, it is time to accept that chaos has become the norm. The COVID 19 pandemic, the Russian Invasion of Ukraine, the collapse of the Sri Lankan economy, a stagnation of global economic growth, interrupted supply chains, and fears of a recession are just some of the many events that have rocked our understanding of the modern world. Therefore, new approaches to meet these challenges need to be developed. Being increasingly agile allows institutions and organisations to adapt and take advantage of opportunities that arise due to continual disruptions (Samaras, 2020).
Agility in numbers
According to data collected by Project Management Institute (PMI) and Accenture, agile firms are 55% more likely to have improved financial performance compared to conventional organisations. Furthermore, approximately 89% of businesses recognise the importance of agility within the organisation, but are unsure of how to execute it practically.
MIT conducted a study and found that 31% of companies classified as highly agile increased their EBITDA by 20% as compared to just 1% of contemporary companies.
Accenture reported that agile companies grow around 40% faster and generate profits higher than 30% as compared to traditional companies.
The American Productivity and Quality Center (APQC) surveyed executives and found that more than 25% of executives believed that their organisation was at a competitive disadvantage as they were not agile enough to predict and adapt to shifts in the modern-day marketplace.
From the inferences above, a common consensus is that companies and institutions must focus on implementing agility into their business processes if they want to stay competitive and deal with business problems effectively (Jaspers, 2020).
Why must companies embrace agility?
Agility allows companies to benefit from cost savings, higher production, and employee retention. From an employee perspective, it improves satisfaction and reinforces trust in the management.
LEGO, a company on the brink of bankruptcy, was able to understand the need to evolve with the changing needs of their target audience and invited the public to collaborate with the company to introduce new ideas. These ranged from films and robotics to virtual and augmented reality. Today, the company is one of the most valuable brands in the world and is a case study for business agility and innovation.
After Unilever launched a formal flexible job-sharing program, employees have displayed high levels of job satisfaction and a culture of trust was created in the company. With the retail flex solution at Apple, employees got greater control over where they want to accomplish tasks, dramatically improving employee efficiency within the company (Smet, Dowling, Lim, & Pineault, 2022).
Domino’s Pizza was able to capitalise on the growing pizza delivery market and invested heavily into its pizza recipes, menu offerings, and delivery technologies. This allowed the company to grow significantly during the COVID period and monumentally increase its market share around the world; with India being its most significant success story.
The Mazda Motor Company uses agile manufacturing systems in their factories which enables the company to produce multiple vehicle models and meet changing market requirements effectively while significantly reducing delivery times.
Levi Strauss adopted curbside pickup across a majority of their stores during pandemic leveraging a highly agile ecosystem. They understood the customer needs which increased sales significantly (Smaje, 2020).
Agility- a transformation enabler
Agility is not only about flexible working hours or adoption of technology. From economic systems to mindsets, agility is applicable everywhere and in every context.
Developing economies or small countries need more agility than developed nations. A standardised economic policy would not suit all countries and there needs to be a more agile approach to economic planning. Agility also determines the economic development of a nation. Sri Lanka’s economic collapse is a great example of an inflexible system with an over reliance on a particular sector.
At a societal level, agility enables concerted efforts to take shape, allowing for effective crisis management. This was demonstrated by the health authorities of India who responded to the COVID 19 crisis with organised restrictions and indigenous vaccination roll-out campaigns to effectively curtail and curb the spread of the virus.
The future is Agility
Agility is not a one-size-fits-all concept, but a tailored approach that requires an examination of the context in which it is applied, which if done correctly, can create several tangible and intangible benefits across institutions and people worldwide.
Samaras, H. P. (2020, September). The Importance Of Being Agile. Retrieved from Stanton Chase: https://www.stantonchase.com/the-importance-of-being-agile/#:~:text=Well%2Ddeveloped%20agile%20leadership%20at,increases%2C%20and%20business%20performance%20improves.
Jaspers, E. (2020, September 29). Why Agility is Essential to Your Survival: 15 Eye-Opening Stats. Retrieved from business2community: https://www.business2community.com/strategy/why-agility-is-essential-to-your-survival-15-eye-opening-stats-02350538
Smet, A. D., Dowling, B., Lim, R., & Pineault, L. (2022, April 22). Three types of modern flexibility today’s workers demand. Retrieved from McKinsey: https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/people-and-organizational-performance/our-insights/the-organization-blog/three-types-of-modern-flexibility-todays-workers-demand
Smaje, K. (2020, August 12). How six companies are using technology and data to transform themselves. Retrieved from McKinsey: https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/mckinsey-digital/our-insights/how-six-companies-are-using-technology-and-data-to-transform-themselves