6 Ways to Increase Business Agility

Let’s start with the good news. If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve already completed an Agile transformation or are on your way to doing so. That means you’re through one of the most challenging parts of obtaining business agility and is certainly worth a pat on the back.

However, business agility is also about never being complacent.

You always need to be on the lookout for ways to increase your business agility by expanding it within the organization, honing your processes, and ensuring you don’t slip back into pre-Agile practices. Below, we’ve broken down 6 things you can do to achieve all three of those goals.

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1. Ensure You Have Strong Support from Leadership

If you’ve already managed a successful Agile transformation or are in the middle of one, chances are you had leadership support for it (if not, let us know because that is a truly rare feat!) However, just because that initial transformation is complete doesn’t mean leadership support stops being essential.

Gaining new leadership team members who are Agile skeptics or even just unfamiliar with business agility as a concept can quickly undermine all of your hard work. So, when you experience changes in leadership, it’s critical that you work to develop their understanding and support of business agility.

After all, the single biggest challenge to agility in the marketing function is reverting to old (non-Agile) approaches. That challenge is also experienced by other functions throughout an organization. Avoiding this backsliding begins at the top.

Educating leadership could be done through a business agility intro course or simply by walking them through your transformation process and what it has achieved. Ensure their questions are answered and the value that Agile brings to your organization is clear.

2. Bring Agile Practices to New Functions

Even most organizations which have completed an Agile transformation still have some non-Agile legacy functions. Often these are in areas less often adapted to Agile such as finance, HR, procurement, or even sales. One of the most effective ways to increase business agility is expanding Agile to these areas.

The two things to keep in mind here are: first, that Agile teams strongly prefer working with other Agile teams. Taking another example from Agile marketers, 74% of them feel it’s easier to work with other Agile departments. Only 5% disagreed with this sentiment.

This is because so many of the benefits of Agile involve improving work not just within teams but between them. However, it’s harder to obtain those benefits if the teams you’re working with aren’t Agile.

One potential roadblock may be the relative lack of quality information on how to apply Agile to functions outside of marketing and software development. Fortunately, we’ve written extensively on how you can apply Agile to areas like sales, HR, and procurement. You can use those articles as a solid starting point for bringing Agile into those functions.

3. Adapt as You Go

We mentioned how you’re never really done with Agile, it’s a continuous process. From the moment you begin an Agile transformation onwards, you always need to be looking for opportunities to adapt standard Agile practices to your unique needs and the changing environment around you.

That said, this has to be done carefully. If you aren’t acting with the advice of an experienced Agile practitioner, it’s easy to make seemingly small changes that actually undermine the entire value proposition of Agile. In other words, it’s absolutely essential to adapt Agile. But it’s equally essential to do so with consideration of the Agile values and principles.

Often, these adaptations come in the form of eschewing classic Agile frameworks like Scrum or Kanban for a Hybrid approach. After all, Scrum is fantastic, but was designed for specific use cases, so adapting them to something like HR requires some deliberate effort. Kanban for its part is very adaptable, but often still benefits from being used within a hybrid approach because it can get chaotic very quickly without the right discipline.

4. Maintain Strong Feedback Loops

One of the unique benefits of business agility over regular team-level Agile is its ability to create feedback loops between senior leaders and people on the ground. However, you can’t simply take this for granted. Feedback loops are the engine that can drive your organization to increase business agility.

To take a step back and simplify, the situation you are trying to create is one in which leaders provide the what while Agile team members provide the how.

Ideally, leaders will be collecting input from the Agile teams they support about capacity, what’s going well, what’s not going well, etc. before incorporating that feedback into what they ask those teams to do. Likewise, Agile teams should be getting top-level input on what their priorities should be from their leaders.

These feedback loops are crucial for improving processes because the people closest to the work have the greatest understanding of process weaknesses and are in the best position to suggest improvements based on their observations.

That said, understanding how these loops should function and making them happen in practice are two different things. Fortunately, systems like Portfolio Kanban can help.

5. Try Portfolio Kanban

While far less famous than standard Kanban, for larger organizations with more hierarchy, Portfolio Kanban is an excellent way to scale up the benefits of the Kanban framework for teams while creating those vital feedback loops across teams, departments and organizational layers.

It allows an organization to connect their entire value stream across multiple levels of an organization by linking work items based on their relationships and dependencies. This makes the kind of feedback loops mentioned earlier more formalized, powerful and visual. It also makes it far easier for senior leaders to have a solid understanding of what’s going on throughout the organization.

So if you’re concerned about the strength of your feedback loops or visibility over what’s happening throughout your organization, consider using Portfolio Kanban to ensure both happen.

6. Further Increase Business Agility Through Ongoing Training & Support

Ultimately, getting everything on this list right becomes far easier with the right training and support. While you probably did some formal training or leveraged coaching as a part of your initial Agile transformation, if you want to increase your business agility then you can’t stop there.

Agile is always evolving and improving. If you’re going to get the most out of that evolution while avoiding the dreaded fall back into non-Agile ways of working, you need a foundational understanding of business agility.

Or, alternatively, if you have new leaders or team members who are finding it difficult to adapt to Agile, stepping in with support is the right response. Our Introduction to Business Agility Course is a fantastic way to get a big-picture perspective on how business agility functions and how you can get the most out of it.

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