“Oh, Agile has crept into Strategic Management now? How ludicrous?!” Before you go and delete or flick past this article because of the scary “Agile” word, hear me out.
Let’s start with some facts. In my “travels” over 2017, one thing is certain – The face of businesses, industries and governments are changing at an unprecedented rate. We are standing at the edge of a tsunami, or it might have already hit us. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock somewhere, you would have read about Block Chain (or Bitcoin), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), AirBnB, Uber, or many many more big and scary technologies that could potentially change the way we are and how we use technology. What about the environment? We’re experiencing hotter summers and colder winters. What about our health? People are living longer because of technology and medical advancements. What about overpopulation? We are multiplying like bunnies and flocking to the major cities. What about the economy? China decides to slow down in their city development and Australia’s steel prices plummet. What about retail? We go to shops to try shoes only to but them online on our phones. You getting the picture here? What about our governments? A bunch of people get together on social media and if there’s enough of them making enough of a consistent noise, they could topple or sway our government.
Are Future(s) and Innovation Programs enough to truly secure your future?
It is hard to imagine that any organisation would be doing 5 year plans anymore after hearing all that. Sadly, most still do. You might say, “Aha! But we’ve got an Innovation Hub! We’ve got a Future(s) program! They’ll deal with all this!” Will they? There’s still 3 problems with that:
- How are you certain that the whatever the Future(s) or Innovation program are working on or producing are the right ones in 5 years’ time? Or even in the next 12 months?
- If you’re happily satisfied with point 1, how are you certain that these changes can successfully translate into day-to-day operations in time? In other words, are you able to “assimilate” the good stuff coming out of these programs into business-as-usual fast enough before it changes again?
- Again, if you are happily satisfied with point 1 and 2, how are you certain that what you’ve got will stay current? In other words, can you consistently “re-innovate” or “re-future” yourselves round 2, round 3? Or is one transformation hard enough as it is?
Now, if you’ve read all that and asked, “But what does 5 year planning and Strategic Management have anything to do with my Future(s) or Innovation Programs?” – You’ve got a deeper issue there!
Redefining true Business Agility
Notice how I’ve intentionally used the word “agile” in my title and not the upper-cased “Agile”? What I’m thinking out loud here is the fact that we should re-consider how we do strategy. Or how we produce and implement them. We should do it in an agile manner. Not in the methodology sense of the word “Agile”, but in trying to achieve business agility. Professor Michael Rosemann from Queensland University of Technology coined the term “Minimal Viable Strategy” or MVS in a conference I attended when he was speaking last year. He’s likened it to what Agile practitioners would call “Minimal Viable Product” (MVP). The thought that we can still create big and heavy strategies that can persevere through this “torrential” era of constant change is a huge mistake! The big question then is – “How do we create nimble strategy that can be easily and regularly updated?” The implications of being able to answer this question should naturally lead on to the next question – “Will my organisation be able to keep up?” Now that’s your link to the Future(s) or Innovation program!
Graft Future(s) and Innovation Programs into Strategy Management to gain Business Agility
In this new year, I offer these thoughts to challenge your current reality:
- Look closely are your Future(s) or Innovation Program and ask, how can I measure success? Is success simply a number of products or initiatives implemented? What about the “Relevancy matrix” that is – How relevant is this to my external and internal environment? Will my implementations truly futureproof my organisation against external changes? Or will my implementations crumble because I don’t have internal buy in since I haven’t dealt with my culture sufficiently.
- Are your Future(s) or Innovation Program mutually influencing your Corporate Strategy? And can the same be said of your business-as-usual operations? The opposite of this would be the feeling that your program seems to be the “cowboys in town”. The cowboys can do what they want and are outside the main business’ jurisdiction. No one wants to have anything to do with them until they’re forced to. What are better ways to start improving these tri-directional changes.
- How are you even sure that what you’re spending money, time and energy on are the right ones? How have you derived these conclusions? Is it reactive to issues? Based on your history and experience? Mimicking others? Looking at market trends? Sensing global trends? Is your method consistent? Can the perceived need to change be measured? If not, how are you sure it’s the right need to change? This can be a whole topic in itself, but I suggest you start by looking up Strategic Foresight methods as one approach to achieve this. Here’s a helpful article to kick it off.
In summary, to achieve business agility you’ll need a team to be the “front runners”. The Digital Future(s) or Innovation Program team can do this. However, they must be your “sensors” and implementers of constant change. Not once off, not outside the organisation somewhere, but fully embedded within the organisation. They are the “change core” of your organisation and they need to be equipped with the right methods and tools to do so. This includes the ability to curate and facilitate an MVS with the management team.
I’ve started to work on these ground-breaking challenges. To find out more, visit www.mbtframework.com. Or if you are interested in embedding Strategic Foresight into your team for MVS, contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Author
Head of Market Development, Procensol Australia
As Procensol Australia’s Head of Market Development, Mervin brings more than a decade of experience in strategic thinking, software, systems and process-centric design for business transformation to the operations of the organisation. Originally from Singapore and now based in Brisbane Australia, Mervin has held positions ranging from strategic BPM consulting, channel management, CIO, CTO to vendor management. He leads Procensol Australia’s market strategy, working with clients and partners to guide their Intelligent Automation, innovation and digital transformation investments.
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