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Designing for Agility, Not Just Speed

Agility – once considered an ad hoc approach used to capture an emerging opportunity in app development – is increasingly becoming a core capability in maintaining competitiveness.

Agility

Businesses today are operating in a continuous and disruptive market environment that can be best characterized as volatile, uncertain and moving at breakneck speeds of change. To keep up with this, innovation needs to happen in much shorter cycles, and it must scale at the same speed.

Long gone are the 12- to 24-month planning cycles that once prevailed. Now, product development must be driven by the current impact of specific factors on users and market ecosystems. Organizations must be able to react quickly — but for large enterprises, this is almost impossible.

Agility Doesn’t Occur in a Vacuum

Agility in itself is not the magic solution. While agility alone can lead to fast movement, it can also limit the ability to see what’s going on. At the same time, traditional strategy planning can lead to watching others moving quickly while sitting in a stationary armchair.

The key lies in being able to create rapid learning cycles. Doing so requires different organizational design, team structures, problem framing and solution approaches, all without losing touch with users or customers.

Bringing agility into an organization is not the same as designing a technology-based plan, nor is it equivalent to a week of executive education and reading a few books. Instead, it involves some very fundamental shifts of how an organization works and creates value and takes action. In particular, agility requires moving quickly into large-scale deployment, which in turn depends on proper design practices and discipline.

A Wide Range of Applications

Agility is not only for technology development, either. It can be applied to almost any strategic initiative, whether it’s a large-scale digital transformation, a new venture development or a customer experience deployment. Historically, 70% to 80% of large-scale strategic transformations have failed or stalled at some stage. The factors that caused them to fail include an inability to deliver original value propositions, misalignment with key stakeholders, an inability to catch up with the pace of external change, closing competence gaps too slowly and poor execution. Agility can help overcome all of these challenges.

Strategic agility must become a core part of any enterprise’s capability, but there are considerations to be made on how agility should be built and developed by a special tactical unit (such as an innovation lab) or how to widely deploy it within all functions and units. The combination of speed and agility with design thinking is the key to winning – not raw speed alone.

This blog post originally appeared on the website of Idea Couture, a Cognizant company. 

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Idris Mootee

Idris Mootee

Idris Mootee is a highly acclaimed strategic innovation expert with a long history of working as an advisor to top executives of Fortune 500 companies and CEO at Idea Couture, a Cognizant company. The author of five books on strategic innovation, marketing and branding, he is a visiting lecturer on strategy, innovation and design thinking at several graduate programs and frequently speaks on these subjects at business conferences and executive retreats. Idris can be reached at imootee@ideacouture.com.
Idris Mootee

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