Last night saw the opening of an exciting intitiative from Tie UK North, a brand new incubator for start-up businesses in Spinningfields, Manchester, more about it here.
Asked to do a talk around ‘Business Agility’ for the audience, I had a number of people come to me afterwards to ask me if I had a copy of the speech, which thankfully I do. I’m re-publishing it here for those that asked: -
Phil Jones – Founders Dock Launch 20/01/2014 – ‘Business Agility’
“Last week we had some great news. Brother had been named in the list of the Sunday Times Top 100 places to work. Let me place that in some context for you, our parent is 105 years old and our Manchester business is 46 years old. In a world where most of the household giants are now less than 10 years old, we’re a wise elder on the topic of staying relevant to your audience, a key attribute defining an agile organisation.
The last seven years have been the most dynamic I’ve ever experienced in business. At times we’ve ridden waves, other times battled heavy headwinds. It’s the ability to quickly react which differentiates whether you are a puma or a dinosaur in the new new we all now live in.
So many disruptive technologies entered our realm post 2007 that our landscapes began to shift. The iPhone, iTunes, Cloud Computing, APPS, Twitter, Dropbox, iPads, Android, Google earth – the list goes on and on.
And then someone pressed self-destruct on the economy in 2008, creating a perfect storm of technological, organisational and economic turmoil. I’m sure every business leader in the room has their share of success and horror stories of how this new world order has impacted them, perhaps forcing an unplanned change.
But what is business agility?
It depends who you ask and there are numerous interpretations of the word and what it stands for. Maybe in the last few years it’s all been about reducing organisational trauma as your business adapts to new markets, for others about finding the quick wins to take on a new-entrant disrupting previous holy ground.
The bottom line is having a workforce, organisational structure, business model and capability to deal with anything that gets thrown at you! I believe AGILITY is the ATTITUDE of your people, more than your processes.
In the heart of all of this lies the creative leader, the light burst of energy who can inspire, direct and encourage people to turn up with the right attitude towards change. Recessions bring fear or flight thinking, buttoning down the hatches, sticking with the knitting, risk aversion and controlling behaviour. It’s about the worst possible environment for large, established businesses battling to keep their oil tanker afloat, whilst observing bootstrapped new entrants kicking the living daylights out of their business model.
Energised and connected leaders who can see this, roll their sleeves in readiness, obsessing about customers in order to stay relevant and intimate. They are rarely caught asleep at the wheel, a la HMV, Woolworths, Blockbuster, as they are connected to the pulse of the customer, bringing back insights and always ensuring the direction of travel is correct, although the final destination may well still be undetermined.
Words that we normally associate at Brother with agility are: – flexibility, balance, adaptability, co-ordination, autonomy, fluidity, de-centralisation and dexterity, difficult to do all at once unless you are the guy from the TV show ‘don’t look down’ on Channel 4 last night!
We wrapped this all up in an acronym called ‘PRIDE’ – Personal Responsibility In Delivering Excellence. Driving down responsibility to human beings in a work community to be their best, to adapt and to work through whatever might come through the door.
With all this technology, we are now entering the age of ‘isation’ – Democratisation, Virtualisation, Consumerisation, Commodisation, Cannibalisation and Globalisation. A trickle down effect which has put power right in the hands of people to work anywhere, to amplify their voice and demand the lowest cost for anything, from anyone. The customer is no longer king, they are king kong with corporate reputations under risk from the crowd as they gather across social computing networks to force change from slow responders or head in the sanders.
- Change will be constant.