Heena Dawnak

“Success today requires the agility and drive to constantly rethink, reinvigorate, react, and reinvent.” – Bill Gates

Has there ever been a time when customers are more demanding of the companies serving them? Companies worldwide are working tirelessly to manage the impact of the COVID-19.

Leading organizations are reorienting their customer-experience to meet the rising demands of customers, for example, a leading European Telco equipped about 10,000 call-center agents with laptops and tool infrastructure within a week, enabling them to take calls and work from their homes. Companies that provide extra care and support during these uncharted waves maintain communication and continuous engagement with customers. Companies like the Erdos Group that has launched the WeChat program in China to offer virtual product consultations.

“Organizations that have been undergoing business agility transformations have shown benefits such as increased revenue, faster turnaround times, and higher-quality offerings, according to the Business Agility Institute’s 2019 Business Agility Report.”

The key areas that demand support are rapid responses, business continuity, operating model evolutions, and strategic initiatives. Businesses across industries are evolving and responding promptly to protect employees and build resilience as the impact of the pandemic continues to mount. Institutions ranging from aerospace manufacturers, automobile giants to tax authorities have nevertheless persisted, focusing their efforts solely on lean and agile management. Both methodologies have been proven for helping improve performance.

Many people make the mistake of believing that they need to choose between the two – which isn’t true. Not only is opting for one unnecessary, but the two methodologies very well complement each other.

Lean’s Legacy, Agile’s Momentum

Lean management has helped companies create immediate value for over 70 years. Starting right from the 1940s with its roots in the Automobile giant – Toyota Production System, lean management has spread from manufacturing, aerospace to service operations, and just about every other industry.

Organizations that implement Lean methodology –

  • Seek to identify and eliminate any activity that is not valued by the customer. This systematic analysis of processes not only reduces waste and inflexibility but also boosts performance in product quality, cost control, continuous customer satisfaction, and employee engagement.
  • Furthermore, Lean organizations apply a mindset of continuous improvement and flexible working processes wherein all employees contribute to new ideas and suggestions so that their organization keeps getting better and resilient over time.
  • Freed from non-value-generating tasks, people focus more on what’s crucial and what matters to customers.

The Agile mindset and methodology teach us how companies can work most effectively when working differently. Born out of software development in 2001, with the development of Agile Manifesto – Agile has become very popular these days.

Here are few key pointers that better explains what agile is and how its benefits are impactful during these unprecedented times –

1) Agile provides Cadence for Work

When things are ambiguous, unclear and when nothing feels certain – agile provides for regular patterns to move work forward. Whether you’re doing a virtual stand up a call with your team members or if you’re reviewing your work every week together, these practices are positive you’re your state of mind that brings a sense of much-needed normalcy.

2) Agile allows for Quick Shifts and Immediate changes

There are times when organizations need to make quick adjustments and changes in order to respond rapidly and adapt. In such times, using the agile methodology to “deconstruct” work – breaking it into smaller units – to accomplish it one piece at a time provides the opportunity for more in-course corrections. When situations change, agile allows for easy shifts because work has been planned in smaller portions and over shorter time horizons.

“Gartner Says Nearly 30% of Marketing Leaders Believe Lack of Agility and Flexibility Negatively Impacts Marketing Execution During COVID-19 Pandemic”

3) Agile is Empowering

Another hallmark of agile is teams and team members who enjoy the freedom of making decisions at the moment rather than asking for permission or waiting for their managers to weigh in. In an agile environment, leaders provide a shared vision whereas team members fulfill it. Just the sheer ability for team members to make the necessary calls as they work through projects helps ensure agility, speed, and responsiveness to customer needs. Especially with the COVID-created pressure on many organizations to react quickly than usual – this kind of approach makes total sense.

Respond. Recover. Renew

1) Focus on immediate Response needs

In the midst of the current crisis and near-term economic uncertainty, most companies’ focus is right now on retaining their workforce and cash flow. As these are competing priorities in the need of the hour, they require a creative solution.

It is always advisable for Lean and agile practitioners to find a set-based approach to this problem by engaging as many people as possible in exploring solutions with speed. It is all about creating a shared consciousness allowing people to make decisions rapidly.

Lean and agile leaders should establish the vision (solution intent) and the guardrails for their desired outcomes and then empower their teams to explore the how.

2) Retain Customers

Well, the next business priority is to retain as many customers as possible – which means helping customers continue to operate through and after the pandemic. A lean mindset and an agile approach encourage partnerships with customers.

It is imperative now more than ever to truly collaborate with your customers at risk and help them stay in business and come out of this time by encouraging your employees to parallelly work with customers to identify creative solutions that works for both the organizations. This will also require customers to be transparent with their vendors. Trust and transparency are core values of lean and agile enterprises. Once again, providing your teams with the key financials will enable good decisions.

3) Recover and Reinvent (Renew)

Organization will need to reinvent and reimagine as to how will they succeed in a world that is permanently changed. Companies across industries must be prepared to discover new market opportunities and respond at speeds never before considered. Like mentioned earlier, a shared consciousness is what makes for a lean and agile enterprise. To achieve it, tools need to be re-engineered or replaced to ensure a higher focus on sharing information across silos while continuing to protect confidential information.

Organizations will have to take a look at their existing systems and processes and even their organizational models have given these new realities.

What will the future be? The current crisis has created an opportunity for businesses worldwide to reset some of your goals and strategy – and ask “As we recover from this crisis, do we want to be different? If so, how?”

Heena Dawnak

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Tags: Agile, Agile Methodology, COVID-19, Crisis, Lean, Lean Mindset, Pandemic, Resilience Through Disruption

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