Now is NOT the time to be playing it safe, but now IS the time to be playing with SAFe®

Technology advances has given rise to the 4IR. Beyond the faster rate of change and the blurring of industry boundaries, organisations are being forced to re-think their value proposition. Not only has technology advances created new product and service opportunities, but it has also opened new ways of operating and serving customers. Identifying and exploring such opportunities at digital speed requires Business Agility.


What is Business Agility?

Business Agility is the ability to compete and thrive in the digital age by quickly responding to market changes and emerging opportunities with innovative business solutions.

It requires that everyone involved in delivering solutions—business and technology leaders, development, IT operations, legal, marketing, finance, support, compliance, security, and others—use Lean and Agile practices to continually deliver innovative, high-quality products and services faster than the competition.


Why is business agility now more important than before?

  • Discovering the NEW normal post COVID-19. What to Stop, Start, and Accelerate

As the world is gradually starting to process the direct implications of lock-down, economic issues are now starting to take center stage. These developments will fundamentally reshape how consumers perceive value and seek affordability in a post COVID-19 world. Value perception—the combination of price, quality, and service by which consumers judge whether they’re getting a good deal—has long been a major factor in consumers’ decisions about where to shop; it will become even more critical as we emerge from the current crisis. The shape of the recovery is still difficult to predict. Agility—the ability to respond rapidly to changes in consumer sentiment and value perception—will be crucial. As part of building agility, you will need to monitor carefully chosen metrics that are reliable indicators of how consumers are thinking about price and value, such as e-commerce penetration, basket size, and private-label penetration.


  • Winning in the turns

“Crisis” in Chinese is composed of two characters—one representing danger, the other opportunity. Of course, seeing opportunities emerging from this crisis is not the same as being able to seize them. How are executives responding? As might be expected, they are largely focusing on maintaining business continuity, especially in their core. Dangerously so, this most often results in innovation investment neglect. However, executives must weigh cutting costs, driving productivity, and implementing safety measures against supporting innovation-led growth. Leaders face an important choice around supporting innovation-led growth in the short term, a decision that could have perilous consequences for their companies’ ability to grow in the years to come. Many businesses simply cannot operate as they have in the past. What made a company successful historically may no longer be possible during or after the crisis. Businesses can gain long-term advantages by understanding such shifts and the opportunities they present. Research suggests that playing it safe may be a short-sighted decision right now. In past crises, companies that maintained investment in innovation delivered superior growth and performance post-crisis. Organizations that maintained their innovation focus through the 2009 financial crisis, for example, emerged stronger, outperforming the market average by more than 30 percent, and continuing to deliver accelerated growth over the subsequent three to five years.


  • Ride the adrenaline wave

Crises are like adrenaline for innovation, causing barriers that once took years to overcome to evaporate in a matter of days. Entrenched orthodoxies on “the way things are done” are replaced with “the new way we do things” almost overnight. Some retail trends that we expected to unfold over several years have now taken hold in a matter of weeks. Digital and alternative fulfillment models (such as curb side pickup), which some retailers previously viewed as experimental, suddenly became must-haves. For example, in US grocery, e-commerce penetration was a mere 3 percent before the crisis and is expected to reach 8 to 10 percent this year. This openness for innovation and rapid change triggered by the crisis must be maintained and embedded in the organisation’s culture.


The SAFe way to business agility

Many large and successful enterprises today face an existential crisis, the distinctive competencies and massive tangible assets that got them there will not be adequate to assure survival post COVID-19 and in the 4IR era. The problem is not with organisations realizing that they need to transform; rather, the problem is that organizations are using managerial frameworks and infrastructure models from past industrial revolutions to manage their businesses in this one. Today’s business environment calls for a ‘dual operating system’. The one system needs to leverage the benefits and stability of the hierarchical system, whilst the second system restores the speed and innovation of an entrepreneurial network -the kind that all organisations started out with.

SAFe 5.0 released at the beginning of the year is based on seven core competencies required for a Lean Enterprise to activate a dual operating model and resulting in business agility. Lean-Agile Leadership is the foundation competency, others are execution-related, whilst the rest support strategy development. The customer is the focal point at the center of all the competencies whilst ‘Measure and Grow’ serve as a reminder of the importance of periodic self-assessments to track the organization’s progress towards the principles and practices that enable business agility.


How can we help you achieve Business Agility?

Our team of business agility experts are ready to help you on your journey. We offer consulting, training and coaching services and are certified to consult and train your organisation on the SAFe scaled lean agile framework.