An Agile Approach To Future Proof Your Business Strategy

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When it comes to developing a company strategy, whether that’s over 1, 5 or 10 years, taking the first step can seem daunting. There are so many unknowns and questions. What if the world changes dramatically and what we write now is wrong within months? Who are the right teams and stakeholders to involve developing the strategy? How do we know if we have the right priorities to enable organisational success?

Applying an agile approach can provide a flexible and adaptive framework that aligns with the dynamic nature of the business environment we operate in. In this article, we will delve into the ways an agile approach can help in both the development and execution of your corporate strategy.

Starting with strategic development, the next 3 points are relevant:

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  1. Set the strategic objectives upfront by the leadership team

Establishing a concise set of top-down objectives set by the executive leadership feeding from the corporate vision (or similar) proves instrumental in steering the aspects of strategy including planning, budgeting, and delivery processes across all levels of the organisation. Upfront agreement on business priorities ensures clarity for teams and prevents internal competition for investment and resources.

By aligning team objectives with overarching business priorities, potential conflicts are mitigated, allowing for a more streamlined and effective execution of functions. This approach acknowledges the potential divergence between individual team priorities and broader business goals, emphasising the need for common understanding.

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2. Ensuring different business areas are represented through cross-functional collaboration

Agile emphasises cross-functional collaboration and communication. This approach helps break down silos within an organisation, fostering better communication and cooperation between different departments and teams, as well as ensuring wider buy in and ownership. When it comes to strategy development, a cross-functional team is crucial – representatives from different business areas should contribute so that their priorities are heard and if relevant included. Cross team dependencies should also be discussed.

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3. Adaptability through strategic flexibility

Unlike traditional strategy development, where the strategy is set in stone and unchangeable, taking an agile approach to strategy development provides the flexibility to pivot when necessary. If market conditions change, new opportunities arise, or customer preferences change, companies can adjust their strategic direction without undergoing a complete overhaul. This adaptability helps to stay ahead of the competition and mitigates risks.

 By promoting agile governance practices including iterative planning, continuous feedback loops and regular governance forums, organisations can swiftly adjust their strategies in response to these changes and ensure that strategic objectives remain aligned with evolving business realities.

Once you have gone through the strategy development phase, the below 4 points will help you and your company execute:

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  1. Set outcomes to measure your success

Agile promotes the definition and measurement of OKRs (objectives and key results) at each stage of strategy implementation. This data-driven approach enables companies to regularly assess the effectiveness and success of their strategy and make evidence-based decisions.

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2. Empower your employees to achieve higher employee engagement and delivery ownership

A foundational component of agile ways of working is ensuring employees feel empowered. When it comes to following through with the strategic direction, when people feel a sense of ownership, they are more likely to get involved in the strategy execution. Not only can this lead to company success but also an increase in employee satisfaction and a more motivated workforce. When leaders are aligned and clearly articulate what the organisation is trying to achieve, there is a shared understanding, and teams can then be empowered to decide the best solutions for how they will deliver against it.

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3. Speed to mobilise from idea to action
In the dynamic landscape of strategic development, embracing an agile methodology emerges as a critical determinant of success, facilitating the seamless transition from ideation to execution. A distinctive departure from traditional approaches lies in the resolute commitment to initiating actionable steps toward the defined objectives. The essence of agility lies in constructing a strategy that is just good enough to begin to implement.

This dynamic approach facilitates swift testing in the real world, with adaptions where necessary, effectively curbing the risks associated with strategy failure. By mobilising swiftly and focusing on practical validation, agile strategies not only accelerate the pace of implementation but also enhance adaptability in response to evolving market dynamics.

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4. Prioritise the most valuable outcomes/initiatives

You can’t do everything at once if you want to do things well. Using a prioritising technique for your strategy and the outcomes/initiatives is crucial in determining the order in which different tasks or projects should be addressed based on their importance and value. It’s crucial that you have different voices from different areas of the business when you do this to ensure biases are reduced and efficient resource allocation. In an agile approach, prioritisation is a continual process which should be revisited on a regular basis during governance practices. This ensures transparency of priorities, as well as the forum to make prioritisation calls as and when required.

In summary, adopting an agile mindset and some of the key tools and techniques of agility can help companies to develop and deliver their strategies in the complexities of today’s business landscape. Agility fosters adaptability, collaboration, empowerment, prioritisation and measuring success, ultimately contributing to the long-term success of the organisation.