April 16, 2020

Responding to the "New Normal" with Business Agility

COVID-19 and the corona virus currently occupies our daily lives. All news outlet report on it almost 24/7. What used to be smalltalk about the weather is now about this horrific virus. I do want to talk about the virus, but more in the context of agile transformation and business agility.

If you are interested in the role of an agile transformation coach, here is a starting point for that journey.

Before we get started, let’s define Business Agility and the Agile Alliance offers some useful help. In addition, I have prepared this summary video about business agility that uses the very same definition of the Agile Alliance.

Business agility is the ability of an organization to sense changes internally or externally and respond accordingly in order to deliver value to its customers.  - www.AgileAlliance.org

In the context of the corona virus, many business around the world are challenged to sense changes internally and externally. Many, if not most, are also challenged to continue to deliver value to their customers and need to develop a response strategy. The challenge with the virus is very different to previous events or disasters. For example, the increasing bandwidth and processing power allowed Netflix to switch from shipping to streaming. The same technology innovation enabled Spotify and made record stores obsolete. Amazon evolved from book store to a shopping mall and just recently started with fresh food delivers. Whenever we hear stories like that, there are always companies that did not respond as appropriate are now gone. Blockbuster, record stores, retail and now even supermarkets are under pressure.

COVID-19 is very different, it impacts almost all aspects of our life. Who would have thought that one event could impact school systems, entertainment, tourism, relationships and work as a whole. The breadth of the impact was unforeseen but also when it will all end. COVID-19 has currently no end in sight. This introduces a high level of uncertainty. Is the vaccine coming out tomorrow (I wish!), a year from now and are we able to create a successful vaccine at all? (I certainly do hope so)

Agile Transformation Kata to Increase Business Agility
ATK to Increase Business Agility

I remember news coverages from mid March 2020, when anchors asked “When are going back to normal?”. Only a few weeks later the same people rephrased their question to “What will be the new normal?”. These two questions are fundamentally different as the first question assumes that we will need to get creative for a while until we get back to our old way of doing things. The second question assumes that we are not going back to the same old at all and that the business world will look verydifferent. As a matter of fact, hardly any business operates “same old” for a long period of time and small steps of improvement take place naturally. I believe the new normal this virus will create will be giant leap of change. New business models emerge (e.g. more Digital Transformations) while others intensify their positioning in the market place (e.g. food delivery services, home fitness).

If your company is facing the impact of COVID-19 with full force, it is important to know which questions are you trying to answer? Are you being creative to bridge the gap until the corona virus has been addressed or are sensing a bigger thread in the marketplace for the time after the corona virus? If so, do you have a level of business agility that helps you find answers to respond to the challenges ahead?

How can you turn this crisis into a period of opportunity to be used wisely so that your company is not being passed on the fast lane by others. Take the Agile Transformation Kata for example, which uses evidence-based management and powerful agile tools to increase Business Agility in your organization.  This might be perfect time to tackle this long postponed training or research and be prepared for the challenges right now and ready to react faster in the future.