Agility is key to improving performance

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December 7, 2020

Words of Wilson features a rotating panel of consultants from Bruce Wilson & Company, a landscape consulting firm.

2020 taught us that no matter how fast we move, business, unlike NASCAR, is not just a series of predictable left turns, but instead a track with multiple twists and turns like an Indy car event. Success demands not only speed, but agility – an ability to navigate the changing landscape at record speed without losing control and crashing.

Quickly adjusting the way we deliver services and overcome unforeseen hazards – whether a global pandemic, economic downturn or disaster – while maintaining critical momentum, gives us the inside track over less flexible competitors, allowing us to survive and, in some cases, thrive despite unexpected hardship.

What does an agile company look like and what sets it apart from others that appear, on the surface, just like it in terms of service offerings, people and equipment? These race tips will help you smoothly navigate those unseen hairpin turns that may derail less agile competitors.

1. Produce an operating budget and stay informed on the state of the world.

Get input from your team on the budget so that they own it with you, and then don’t just stick it in a drawer or in a binder on a shelf. Refer to it religiously; make it a part of your monthly financial review, updated regularly to reflect the constantly changing business environment. Agile companies are always looking ahead, adjusting their operating budgets and business plan based on a real-time understanding of the economy and markets. Regularly reviewing trusted business periodicals can help prepare you to spot trends requiring quick action long before they become an issue.

2. Lose the paper.

Paper requires time to handle. Before hitting the print button, ask: Is this piece of paper critical? How will it benefit my customer or my employee? Can the information it contains be shared or stored differently? Consider collaborative platforms, such as Google or Teams, or digital formats. Don’t push print just because it has always been done that way. Agile companies work in the cloud and make information broadly and easily accessible to those that need it without the need to generate, handle and file mounds of paper.

3. Develop consistent, streamlined processes, procedures and job descriptions.

Good processes cut down on ambiguity and specializing job duties, where practical, allows for greater accountability, control and proficiency. Agile companies have a deeper understanding of how to do the job well, cutting out unnecessary steps and bottlenecks which cause delays. Need a starting point? Gather your team together and list the processes they spend the most time on daily, weekly or monthly. Prioritize the list and brainstorm ways to shorten and improve the process for the most critical tasks. Document the procedures and update them as necessary.

4. Fully utilize systems to get up-to-date, meaningful data and reports.

Less is more – a management dashboard that distills many different operating reports into just the critical, need-to-know information used to make timely business decisions is paramount to avoiding “paralysis by analysis” syndrome. Agile companies react to rapidly changing or unexpected market conditions and make important operating decisions faster than their competition.

5. Create high-functioning teams unconstrained by location or function.

Cross-functional collaboration is critical to innovation and improved performance. Working together in harmony – like a finely tuned pit crew – ensures we can deliver and meet unseen demands customers may place on us. Agile companies communicate a clear sense of purpose and hold each other accountable across multiple segments and divisions, creating a culture of continuous improvement and greater levels of commitment.

If implementing change within your organization feels like making a U-turn in a semi, it’s an opportunity for your teams to learn to turn on a dime. Gather your team together, pick one of these tips and start tearing down the walls. I bet you will discover an agile race car ready to take the checkered flag.

Contact Steve Steele at bwilson@giemedia.com