August 12, 2014

Agility as Competitive Advantage

We live in a world that is evolving rapidly. This is evident from pace at which the technology adoption curve is shrinking. In the past, it took decades for a technology to move from research to obsolescence. Today, this cycle has shrunk to years and will soon become months. In this rapidly accelerating world of change, the ability to respond quickly is the key to success.

Agility is the new mantra and is crucial for an organization's survival. Constant demand for newer, faster and better is dictating shorter life-cycles and forcing product manufacturers and service providers to constantly innovate and upgrade. Market uncertainty is further triggered by disruptive technologies, innovative business models and slick execution, creating a new array of unexpected game-changers.

Organizations must learn to adapt and respond with agility in this fast-changing world. An organization must build the culture and the capability to respond with alacrity to customer demands by creating operational flexibility and by empowering individuals.

Agility is the ability to respond with alacrity to changes in market demands, business climates and global scenarios. Organization should embrace agility as a core value to deal with the changing requirements of customers, environments and stakeholders. To be truly agile, we must inculcate agility across all aspects of the Company's culture and ethos. Agility must be all-pervasive and is fundamental to organizational principles, people competencies, process improvement programs and performance measures.

In today's dynamic world, when the life of a product is shrinking, it is important to build and evolve products to meet customer needs. Today's customers are discerning and are sharing feedback through social media. The world has become collaborator where feedback is available instantaneously and sharp reactions can make or break a product. Agile product development has become an accepted practice for building products. Agile development techniques are based on iterative and incremental development techniques, where products are built with short cycles, encouraging rapid and flexible response to change. Organization need to adopted design thinking and iterative development approach for effective execution.

Another key component of organizational agility is development of people competencies, which covers behavioral as well as technical competencies. The former include being pro-active and connecting with the big picture, while the latter include techniques such as lean Six Sigma methodology, theory of constraint philosophy & associated methodologies, techniques for waste elimination, Kanban and change management.

While embracing agility, organization should also look at its performance management system. Throughput improvement, cycle-time optimization, system effectiveness, etc. are true measures for agility.  

Agility is one of the rare ability of the organization which can create direct impact on organization as well as on its customers. It can help all the entities to grow together. It even helps the end-users for faster realization of value. In true sense, it can create win-win situation for all the stakeholders. Given all the benefits and investment parameter constant, it can help organization to create disproportionate advantage by delighting its customers.

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