The Lean Playbook | Six Steps to achieve Business Agility
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Six Steps to achieve Business Agility

Six Steps to achieve Business Agility

How do great companies operate? How have they succeeded (apart from having created fantastic branding and customer-oriented products)? It is not a matter of just running day to day operations, it is about being ready to grow and evolve as time and needs change.

We are in V.U.C.A. (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world. Nothing is fixed anymore, everything keeps changing all the time. That requires companies with processes robust enough to adapt to customers needs but above all, people smart enough to ensure we can easily adapt our processes and ways of working to all this continuous change.

So, there’s a battle outside and it’ll soon shake your windows. How can you resist, survive and grow in this context? There are six steps to achieving Business Agility and great performance:

  1.  Identify and define (if you have not done so) your business model.If you are a startup or if you need to make a twist to your business, start by defining pretty well what will be your business model and value proposition. Business Model Canvas methods will facilitate a lot in this process.
  2.  Define your core and support process, their interactions and let people experiment with what works best.Give your people the confidence and empowerment to create the best possible ways to operate, give them the chance to do trials and errors and have them learned from what did not work. That will lead them to the best way of working and gain confidence on their professional skills. Value stream mapping techniques will allow better understanding on how they should be working together, especially if you decide to go End-to-End.
  3. Once having a defined process, created by people, standardize it.Keep in mind that an absolute level of standardization cannot be achieved. There will always be room for human or machine variation, but standardizing will create a common language among employees to operate. And it will be their processes, so buy-in is ensured!
  4. Your processes are now standard, let us stabilize them.Every individual, team or country will run your processes in more or less the same way, but they will always have different performance levels. How can you balance better this and ensure they all have a similar level of  performance? Collect data and use Minitab or other statistical analysis tools to identify what are the root causes for variation and understand in which steps of the process this is happening. Then you will be able to apply corrective actions, such as upskilling people, correcting defects in machines or software, etc.
  5. Bring in collaborative continuous improvement to the company.Now you have standard processes and they are stabilized to an acceptable level. Here’s where the full power of collaborative continuous improvement can kick-in. In order to get to the next level and evolve as our world and our customers do in an agile way, implementing problem solving and continuous improvement as a practice and spending time and effort on it will allow us to further evolve, improve and most importantly adapt our processes to this continuously changing environment. Making it collaborative will maximize the value you can get out of it.
  6. Go beyond continuous improvement: innovate, accept some risks and fail fast and cheap through MVP before you achieve real, sustainable competitive advantage.You have achieve operational excellence, but there is more than that. There are many options to differentiate yourself either internally or externally to competition once you have reached this point and your organization is ready for continuous change: become a disruptive innovator (design thinking will support you in creating new products, services, etc.). Give people the chance to create stuff as part of their job. Out of a million ideas, at least one might give your the lead in a specific sector.

These ideas, techniques and tools are described, along with specific case studies in our book, The Lean Playbook, now available on Amazon.

Antonio Medina

Optimist and superhero (to his daughter). Antonio has proven Lean experience in many international companies and he is serial article writer in Business Agility topics.

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