Business Agility – the ability of organisations to adapt, develop new ideas quickly and stay relevant – is an increasingly important part of the corporate agenda. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a significant accelerator for this priority.
Therefore, it is vital to understand exactly what agility means. In our previous blog post, we have identified six key pillars of Business Agility – focus, resilience, responsiveness, adaptability, versatility and innovativeness.
Generally speaking, the key to being truly agile is having the right balance of these factors tailored to your specific situation and ambitions. But I think the COVID-19 crisis has shown us that resilience is one factor that requires a major rethink.
In the space of Business Agility, we have learnt to appreciate resilience as a key attribute of organisations that thrive through difficulty. This may sound counterintuitive. Responsiveness and adaptability are more commonly associated with agile businesses. However, agility is as much about withstanding tough times as it is about looking for new opportunities.
Understanding the dimensions of resilience
Resilience is typically defined in financial terms. A company’s resilience is assessed via income and cashflow volatility, and how much leverage companies hold in their balance sheets.
While this definition is absolutely correct, as the current pandemic has made clear, it is a somewhat narrow view of resilience. It takes no account of other factors that have been demonstrated to be incredibly important to businesses trying to withstand sudden shocks.
These other elements are incredibly diverse. An obvious component is operational, for example having proper redundancy and back-ups for people, processes and systems. Another one includes strategic elements – such as decision-making processes or orchestration mechanisms – that make it easier and faster to tweak the business model to make them more relevant in difficult times. For example, imagine a restaurant chain shifting most of its demand on a take-way or delivery model.
Very importantly, we need to consider people elements. This includes aspects such as clarity of purpose, empowerment, motivation and high performing teams.
It is these ‘people’ elements that we find are typically ignored. That might be because these elements are difficult to put in place as they introduce ‘soft’ elements – such as motivation and empowerment – that were not previously considered in the traditional view of resilience.
However, these elements are crucial, especially in knowledge-based work environments. If control is too centralised and work is too mechanised then you remove any opportunity for leadership behaviours from the middle of the organisation – which are vital to surviving through difficult times where one person at the top does not have answers (or time) for everything.
Equally, strongly rooted behaviours are essential for business resilience. In a crisis situation, having a clear set of expected behaviours means that, even in completely unexpected situations, everyone in the team still knows how to act and move forward.
Building true resilience
Taking this more holistic view of resilience is rare. However, if the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us anything, it is that people are central to the success and survival of organisations. At the same time, we have also seen how stringent command and control approaches are not necessarily prerequisites for success. Just to take the example of our own business, since the start of the pandemic a new programme of events and off-topic webinars and sessions has flourished – led by a huge variety of teams across the business – at a volume, relevance and diversity that no leadership team could have ever created.
These changes are not going to happen overnight. Organisations need time to create new methodologies and build resilience through increased focus on people. NTT DATA is already working with clients to not only pull out their values and vision when perhaps they aren’t clear, but also putting in place principles and approaches that keep high performance teams empowered and intrinsically motivated.
A more comprehensive view of resilience help build truly resilient businesses, not just organisations that are resilient on paper.
To find out more about NTT DATA’s Business Agility framework, our broader view of resilience, and to act on the lessons of the current pandemic then please register for our webinar on August 6, where we will take you through our vision of how companies can embrace Business Agility and get on the road to winning in the new era of rapid change.