Agility Is Oxygen TM

Forecasts of COVID’s impact and economic recovery vary widely. Among the most worrisome scenarios predict a future uptick in COVID cases soon after reopening and again in the fall and no one knows how consumers will react. All of these influences come on top of what was already a highly dynamic retail environment.

Agility helps an organization quickly adapt, flex, and adjust to the unknown. Given the uncertainty in the world right now, cash will only carry an organization so far. Retailers need more to breathe – Agility Is Oxygen TM.

Agility Is an Enterprise Strategy

Agility is a way of thinking – a mindset for tackling problems with different approaches and new solutions.

Agility can’t thrive in a silo. According to a report from Capgemini, the vast majority of innovation labs fail to deliver on their promise. This failure can be attributed to a variety of factors, but in Sophelle’s experience, the most common is that lack of agility throughout the enterprise stifles innovation in one department or group.

Agility enables organizations to be responsive to change. The ability to repeat the same tasks many times is key to store operations. Making processes more efficient is a common goal, but it addresses problems in only one dimension. Being the most responsive to change requires multidimensional abilities.

Agility enables organizations to adapt quickly. For the past two decades, agility has fueled profitability. Today, agility can be a matter of survival. The more dynamic the environment, the greater the value of agility. Most successful, large retailers have come to appreciate the value of Change Management as a science. Agility is Change Management at CMM Level 5.


Agility in Processes

Measure acceleration, not speed. The measure of agility is not the organization’s response, but the responsiveness of the organization. Each response and each iteration builds upon the previous. This is how an organization builds strength, flexibility, and speed.

Tactic: Use KPI that measures the ability to change business outcomes.

Operate through continuous improvement in an iterative manner. After each iteration, stop to review what worked and what didn’t. Build on the things that worked and have open conversations about how to address what needs improvement.

Tactic: Assess changes, reprioritize as necessary, and iterate.

Collaborate in cross-functional teams. Unintended consequences and requirements are hidden risks in enterprise endeavors.

Tactic: Draw upon a diversity of perspectives for holistic solutions that can operate throughout the enterprise.

Governance needs to manage agility, not limit it. The focus is on enablement, not limitation, other than to avoid those things that must be avoided (e.g. budgets).

Tactic: Implement governance to enable within guidelines.


Agility in People

Hire for agility. Most retailers write job descriptions based on specific skills that are needed for specific tasks and responsibilities. To fuel agility, people need an agility mindset.

Tactic: Filter resumes less by titles and solutions used, and more on demonstrated ability to adapt and grow.

Encourage and empower people to be their best. To get the most out of people, you need to provide them with autonomy and space. Those who can develop agility will thrive.

Tactic: Provide goals and guidelines, then let people figure out how to achieve the outcomes.

Recognize and reward agility. Too often, recognition is given for accomplishment. Achieving business outcomes is critical, but when made through sheer force, continued improvement is limited. New processes allow improvement in outcomes to be greater and faster.

Tactic: Incorporate feedback on agility into performance reviews.

Lead for agility. Developing agility in an organization works best when it starts or at least is strongly supported, from the top.

Tactic: Fully engage an executive sponsor who is thoroughly versed in agility.


Agility in Tools

Agility begets agility. Tools developed with agile methodology better facilitate solution agility. Waterfall development based on six-month cycles won’t deliver the degree of responsiveness that retailers should demand.

Tactic: Consider the development methodology of the tools under review.

Facilitate change with minimal cost and effort. Business and technical requirements are the base foundation in selecting a solution. The ability to change those requirements drives agility.

Tactic: In addition to determining requirement fit, be sure to consider the cost and effort inherent in making changes.

Functionality will limit agility. Every tool has limits to its capabilities. At a certain point for each, the cost, time, or risk of making changes becomes unwise.

Tactic: Understand what each tool can do, or be modified to do, to understand its limits in agility.

Platforms alone don’t dictate agility. Technology platforms should support agility, but just because a solution is delivered on a cloud-based, SaaS platform doesn’t alone determine agility.

Tactic: Understand how and to what degree the tool’s platform facilitates and limits agility.

Solutions need to be assessed on culture as well as technology. Solutions are often a combination of software, hardware, and services. All three aspects factor into the overall solution.

Tactic: In the assessment of each tool, including the culture of agility in the tool’s provider.


Learn More

This is the second in a four-part series on how retailers can come out of the COVID-19 crisis best positioned to succeed in the future. Read Part 1 “Begin Planning Now” to catch up and subscribe to Sophelle’s newsletter for Parts 3 & 4.


Let Us Help

The tactics provided above are a starting point in building agility. Sophelle has helped hundreds of leading retailers for 25 years. For more information and help building agility in your organization, please contact Sophelle today.

This is the second in a four-part series on how retailers can come out of the COVID crisis best positioned to succeed in the future.
Part 1 “Begin Planning Now
Part 2 “Agility Is Oxygen TM
Part 3 “10 Tactics to Make Innovation Happen
Part 4 “Today’s Retail Environment Demands No Surprises.
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