Agile working: How your firm can think fast and innovate

Agility is a competitive advantage in business (Source: Getty)
Belinda Waldock explains how tech giants stay on top in a world of constant change.
Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Google. Have you ever wondered how these global giants have managed to navigate the relentlessly evolving technology industry, disrupting markets and creating multi-billion dollar valuations just a few years after starting from a garage? Their ability to be responsive to this volatile landscape comes from an innovative approach to business development and management.
The methodology behind their success – agile – is a philosophy that has gained momentum since the turn of the century as the primary method for digital product development and technology-driven business models across the globe.
It is best known as a team-centred approach for delivering software products that need to hit the ground running and continuously evolve to deliver a consistently high quality of service and sustain their customers’ loyalty. But agile has a core set of values and principles from which a much wider array of approaches and tools have evolved. It’s a method that’s truly agile by name and agile by nature.
EXTREME CHANGE AND UNCERTAINTY
Agile draws from and builds on traditional methods, such as lean, for increasing value and removing cost, but crucially it has adapted them for the faster product markets of the twenty-first century. It has provided a structure for the evolution and creation of dynamic new business models and approaches to starting and growing companies in environments of extreme change and uncertainty.
More recently, however, the method has also begun to cross into mainstream business, as technology becomes an increasingly important part of the product and services mix. Agility has become a must-have for many businesses.
COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE
An ability to keep pace brings with it significant competitive advantages, but failure to keep up with the rate of change can leave a business on its knees.
So what can you do to embrace agility in your company?
THREE KEY TRAITS OF AN AGILE BUSINESS
Continuous Improvement: agile businesses are always trying new things, and they nurture a culture of innovation focused on delivering value to the customer. Ideas are released early to market and then enhanced and refined to maximise value for the customer and to grow and sustain engagement.
Embrace Change: agile businesses identify options and make plans but expect them to change and evolve in order to find the optimum solution. Agile businesses embrace and manage change rather than try to strictly control or avoid it.
Empower People: agile helps a business to generate a positive and healthy working environment that harnesses the talent and strengths of individuals, allowing them to work collaboratively as teams and communicate more effectively.

Belinda Waldock is an agile business coach and author of Being Agile in Business: Discover smarter, leaner, faster ways to work (Pearson) which has been shortlisted for CMI’s Management Book of the Year Awards. @belindawaldock yearbook.managers.org.uk


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