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Business Agility: Navigating the Risks of Inaction. Standing Still or Making a Move?

So, what’s wrong with doing nothing? 

Sometimes the option to do nothing can be a choice - even a good one, at a point in time, for a period of time. Perhaps a desirable choice when the other may not be as palatable. However, in its truest sense – doing nothing doesn’t mean a way forward. Not at all. You are standing still and perhaps also procrastinating in making a much-needed decision or change, and to adapt.

“Our trouble is not ignorance, but inaction.” Dale Carnegie

Yes, when posed with uncertainty, then ambiguity is uncomfortable and challenging - if not ‘icky’. In ambiguous situations, we struggle to discern the gravity of action – or what action to take. So, we do nothing. 

So, what if you the world around you – your business, your market landscape, your competitors are moving (innovating or circling) and you’re standing still. Do you start to move – adapt, or continue to stand still and perhaps (most likely) even be left behind?

'There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long-range risks of comfortable inaction.' John F. Kennedy

The risk of failing to adapt is greater than ever before. With technological advancements, market disruptions, and shifting customer preferences and expectations, organisation's that cling to outdated methods and rigid structures are at risk of being left behind. Queue the spinifex....

In my experience, I've witnessed firsthand the consequences of resistance to change and the transformative power of embracing an agile mindset. Here's a spoiler alert!! For those firmly established in the resistance camp - it’s not great and moreover doesn’t end well for the business and the people involved – the collateral damage (along the way) can be incredibly damaging. 

In this article, I'll explore the risks of failing to adapt, why adopting an agile mindset is imperative for (small and medium) businesses and their customers and provide practical steps for organisations to begin their journey towards business agility.

The Risks of Failing to Adapt:

1. Loss of Competitiveness: In a competitive market, organisations that fail to adapt risk losing relevance and market share to more agile competitors who can respond quickly to changing customer needs and market trends.

2. Missed Opportunities: Failing to adapt means missing out on valuable opportunities for innovation, growth, and expansion (market share). Not to mention attraction and retention of resources and customers, being an employer of choice, and income growth. Organisations that are slow to embrace change may find themselves unable to capitalise on emerging trends or seize new business opportunities.

3. Decreased Customer Satisfaction: Customers expect businesses to anticipate and meet their evolving needs and preferences. Organisations that fail to adapt risk alienating customers and losing their trust and loyalty to competitors who can better address their changing expectations.

4. Increased Costs and Inefficiencies: Outdated processes and rigid structures can lead to inefficiencies, wasted resources, and increased operating costs. Organisations that fail to adapt may find themselves burdened by unnecessary bureaucracy (dependant on the organisational structure and/or funding model) and unable to compete effectively in a truly fast changing marketplace.

5. Lack of Resilience: In today's volatile and uncertain environment (remember VUCA ‘Volatile Uncertain Complex Ambiguous’ from my previous articles) adaptability is essential for organisational resilience. Organisations that fail to adapt risk being blindsided by unexpected challenges or disruptions and may struggle to recover or pivot effectively. Businesses and their people need to build resilience – get some grit – together.


Why Adopting an Agile Mindset is Imperative:

1. Adaptability: An agile mindset emphasises adaptability, flexibility, and responsiveness to change. By adopting an agile mindset, organisations can better anticipate and navigate change, positioning themselves for long-term success and sustainability.

2. Innovation: Business agility fosters a culture of experimentation, creativity, and continuous improvement. Organisations with an agile mindset are better equipped to innovate and iterate quickly, driving business growth and competitive advantage.

3. Customer-Centricity: An agile mindset places a strong emphasis on understanding and meeting customer needs. By prioritising customer value and feedback, organisations can build stronger customer relationships and deliver products and services that truly resonate with their target audience.

4. Collaboration: Business agility promotes cross-functional collaboration, transparency, and shared accountability. By fostering a culture of collaboration and teamwork, organisations can break down silos, improve communication, and drive better business outcomes.

5. Resilience: An agile mindset enables organisations to build resilience and adaptability into their DNA. By embracing change as a constant and proactively seeking opportunities for improvement, organisations can better navigate uncertainty and really find and (importantly) feel successful - in ever changing environments. 

“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” – Stephen Hawking

Practical Steps for Adopting Business Agility and the Agile Mindset:

1. Start with Leadership: Leadership commitment is critical for driving organisational change. Leaders should champion the adoption of business agility and lead by example, demonstrating agile behaviours and values.

2. Build Cross-Functional Teams: Encourage collaboration and teamwork by forming cross-functional teams with diverse perspectives and skill sets. i.e. if you have a team of all process and tech skill set people you empower teams to self-organise, make decisions, and drive initiatives forward.

3. Embrace Iterative Approaches: Embrace iterative approaches to planning and execution, such as Agile or Scrum. Break down projects (or big ideas) into smaller, manageable tasks, and prioritise delivering value to customers through incremental releases and continuous feedback.

4. Cultivate a Learning Culture: Foster a culture of continuous learning and improvement by encouraging experimentation, test and learn, feedback, and reflection. Create opportunities for skill development, knowledge sharing, and peer learning.

5. Emphasise Customer Value: Keep the customer at the centre of everything you do. I remember some of my old retail days whilst studying at university and thinking ‘walk in the shoes of the customer’ – try to work out what’s their world, what do they really want? Regularly solicit feedback from customers and stakeholders and use insights to inform decision-making and prioritise initiatives that deliver the most value.

6. Adapt and Iterate: Be willing to adapt and iterate based on feedback and changing market conditions. Embrace failure as an opportunity for learning and growth and use data and insights to drive continuous improvement.

7. Invest in Training and Development: Provide training and development opportunities to equip employees with the skills and knowledge needed to thrive in an agile environment. Invest in agile training programs, workshops, and coaching to build organisational capability.

The risks of failing to adapt in today's rapidly changing business environment are significant, impactful and far-reaching. By adopting an agile mindset and embracing business agility, organisations can mitigate these risks, drive innovation, and deliver value to customers more effectively.

"Instead of constantly adapting to change, why not change to be adaptive?" - Fred Emery 

By starting with leadership commitment (this is so key as the very 1st step), building cross-functional teams, embracing iterative approaches, cultivating a learning culture, emphasizing customer value, and investing in training and development, organisations (small and medium businesses) can lay the foundation for long-term success and resilience in an ever-evolving marketplace where customers expect the best from their last experience – no matter the industry, service or product type.

So, what will you do now – stay still, or take action and change to be adaptive?

For more information on how you can start to explore your business agility potential and how we can help you- Contact | quenable or email directly to

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