Agility is the new scale
by Thomas Hanes on Nov 17, 2021
For hundreds of years, economies of scale were the dominant force in any market: the first companies to grow big grabbed the best resources at the lowest cost and ate up market share. But, unfortunately, scale also created a moat, discouraging new entrants and preserving the status quo.
Today, scale may still confer real advantages. However, it's just as likely to prove a liability (for instance, a bank that's carrying 900 retail branches might struggle to defend against the all-digital, mobile banking startup).
Well before the pandemic, it was clear that agility had become the new scale: the winners in every market would be the companies that stayed closest to their customers and pivoted fastest to serve them better.
Today, in every market, the push to increase agility has accelerated dramatically. The good news: even the most legacy-bound global companies have just discovered that they're far more agile than they thought they were.
The next normal: Nimble wins
During dynamic and uncertain times, there comes the greater value of organizational agility. But, it's only recently emerged as an advantageous methodology or set of behaviors.
The agile methodology has already impacted the most complex disciplines – from manufacturing to software engineering. Now, the ideas captured in Scrum, Kanban, DevOps, Design Thinking, and Agile Project Management have escaped into the wider world of work. And the results speak for themselves.
Instead of simply rushing to return to the way things used to be, we're seeing business leaders double down on agility, looking for ways to design work to be more lean, agile, resilient, and 'anti-fragile.'
The next imperative: Rethink your business to optimize for agility
The best companies in the next decade will be the most agile and responsive. But it won't be by accident; they're already the companies taking active steps to increase their agility. It's time to optimize for these agile-driving dimensions:
- Faster decision-making. Removing hierarchy and bureaucracy to speed up time to action.
- Power to the front line. HQ's job isn't to make every call. It's to empower the people doing the work with the data they need to make better calls.
- Strategic alignment. Agility can only work when you're pivoting from a stable place. The whole organization needs to align around things like values, mission, and strategy.
- An agile mindset. Training for resilience and agility is different from training for productivity and efficiency. New skills and a new orientation toward continuous improvement are needed.
Agility has always been a virtue. Now it's become a systematized methodology – as seen in dev teams everywhere.
(Source: "Navigating the Disruption of Work: The five major accelerations
happening right now", slack, 2021)
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