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Business Agility in the 21st Century

July 28, 2020


Why Businesses Must Change their Definition of Agility

Since the Industrial Revolution, increasing competition has driven businesses towards strategies that preserve and increase their market share. Over 100 years ago, Henry Ford revolutionized industrial productivity with his assembly line technology. In time, countless others have improved it, finding ways to adapt and forever change the ‘status quo’.

This process of establishing patterns, eliminating bottlenecks, and fine-tuning technologies to be repeated at scale worked for a long time. The timing was just right, and the market was not as innovation-hungry as it is today.



Out with the Old

Eventually, the market outgrew the one-size-fits-all approach. Consumers became increasingly aware of their needs and demanded personalized solutions. Once again, businesses returned to the drawing board: they found ways to give some level of personalization while guaranteeing reasonable ROIs to their investors. This is, of course, yet another pattern: businesses changing/adapting to market demands or needs.

But the requests have grown increasingly frequent – almost frantic. The ‘magic formula’– finding patterns, establishing processes, hacking market needs/demands, and repeating at scale – is no longer worthwhile.

When we delve into the reasons behind this loss of value, we find that businesses are still trying to apply patterns in places where no patterns exist. The market is changing in ways that make repeating at scale nearly impossible.


The New Definition of Business Agility

Some businesses understood this early on and adapted accordingly. Some missed it and failed, while others are still in business, but face stiff competition from new market players (fintechs, startups, etc.). The new players are extremely consumer-oriented: listening to all their needs and quickly adapting/changing how they provide value to stay relevant.

This is the real meaning of Business Agility, not any fancy or jargon-laden definitions. Business agility is the timeliness in the response of businesses to market changes. It forms the basis for empiricism, where it is mandatory to be transparent to exploit market demands and adapt accordingly.

Amidst all this, the truth is irrefutable: it is impossible to sustain this level of adaptiveness without defining a new level of collaboration: where people not only execute tasks and follow the rules, but also retain a clear vision of their target and work on contributing to the construction of customer value demands, innovating/experimenting with fresh solutions, and collecting feedback and applying it towards continuous improvement.

As business leaders in the present landscape, we must ask ourselves, “How can we enable an environment in which people can provide their best, i.e., meeting business goals and redefining new ones while maintaining a clear vision on the creation of value for consumers?” The answer will vary for every business, but focusing on this question will put you in a path towards running a more agile business.

Regardless of the business each company plays, you should have the greatest improvement when the answer starts with a deep cultural change in the organization, when learning and practicing run side by side, and ultimately when people are empowered to uncover the game-changing capabilities they have.

So, having fruitful, fertile and enabler environment with encouraged and empowered individuals will qualify today’s organization to be successful, allowing processes and systems to be optimized, more adaptive, intelligent, result-driven and customer-oriented

This article was inspired on what we've experienced in the trenches for the last 30 years, find more at

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