Image credit: Jeremy Keith, flickr
Gone are the days of waiting years for a new product iteration to arrive on shelves. Technology and consumer expectations are evolving rapidly, and the collective tolerance for having to wait for the latest and greatest products is declining just as fast. To put it bluntly, companies lose customers and profit when they fail to get good ideas into the hands of the customer fast enough.
Implementing an agile operating model offers organizations a lifeline by improving their prioritization and accelerating their decision-making process. The end results are faster market delivery, happier customers, reduced waste and increased profits. How do you know if your company is in need of an agile operating model? Quite simply, you need to implement an agile model ASAP if your organization has these three problems:
1) Unclear or misaligned strategic objectives.
2) An organizational struggle to prioritize what needs to get done first and foremost.
3) A failure to truly focus on your customers’ needs.
Today’s companies struggle with the burden of overabundance. There’s simply too much work to do; too many great ideas for improving existing products and services, and bringing brand new products to market. And no clear process for deciding where to start and how to get it all done. That lack of focus is overwhelming to people and the consequence is slower work and delayed product development.
Unclear or Misaligned Strategic Objectives
The real problem here is that the company has unclear strategic objectives, or the objectives are generally misunderstood by most workers. This misalignment at the management level is what results in people operating as if they have blinders on. In other words, they focus only on their own work and fail to understand what the company is trying to achieve overall. When that happens, a general lack of focus on the customer results, and progress is measured in achievements that don’t actually bring value to the company.
Struggling to Prioritize Work
The dizzying pace of technology’s evolution also offers new challenges to top-level executives who are used to having long leads on major decisions. These drawn-out discussion periods can be referred to as the “fuzzy front end,” where companies get bogged down in the details instead of taking action. Lengthy decision-making processes simply have no place in today’s marketplace. Companies need to know where to focus first, and spend less time reviewing ideas and getting approval. Top-level executives have to prioritize quickly and align their company behind these prioritized goals even faster.
The Importance of Early Customer Feedback
A successful agile operating model addresses all of these roadblocks to progress. The model will improve visibility as to what’s truly valuable to the organization and what to focus resources on first. It also enables the organization to deliver value incrementally by creating a rapid iteration environment where products are brought to market faster and refined based on the customer’s feedback instead of the IT team’s fondness for overly complicated features. A general rule of thumb is that value should be delivered early and often.
The rapid iteration process can happen if the company achieves good “flow” by identifying where the bottlenecks are within the organization and removing them. The focus should be on improving the end-to-end flow of value rather than focusing on individual departments and silos. Improved flow ultimately improves quality by redirecting the focus on the customer’s end experience. If your company is truly developing based on your customers’ desires, you’ll stop wasting time and money on products they’re not interested in, and profits will inevitably improve. The key to enabling this is to ensure you drive quality through fast feedback and ensure a regular interaction within the company and with customers directly.
An agile operating model is ultimately a competitive advantage in today’s marketplace. Inherent within this approach is increased collaboration and trust within your company, and senior-level executives who have a better understanding of where to focus resources. Tuning in to what the facts on the ground are telling you, rather than bloated vanity metrics, is the best way to ensure you remain relevant in your marketplace for the long term.