A strong foundation is everything, so the key to success is a rock-solid plan, right? While it might seem that this traditional approach has withstood the test of time, a modern analysis suggests that this mindset might be too rigid for its own good. Planning is important, to be sure, but neither time nor conditions are static. This means that perhaps even more important than a solid plan is the ability to adapt and change as the playing field shifts or agility.
Agility and The Information Game
Again, planning is important. That’s not up for debate. However, there is a vital piece of information being overlooked by anybody who puts unbounded energy into the planning stage, and that’s that the playing field is bound to change. Whether it be during contract negotiation or simply the beginning steps to a new project, the information you have at the beginning will almost certainly not be the same information you have down the line.
When it comes to creating a high-quality product or deliverable, you are bound to learn more about the problem and about the intricacies of implementation on the path of development. Similarly, a client may learn more about their problem or situation which would be important information for the team to consider. Either way, the information game is a dynamic one, and there’s no way to look at it and think that the optimal strategy is religiously sticking to an initial, under informed plan. Instead, another strategy should be considered: agility.
An agile approach to this information game places less of the importance on the planning stage and more of the importance on being able to adapt to changes and new information. Essentially, this is just a sincere and professional commitment to the fact that almost nothing goes exactly to plan, and so it’s better to act accordingly.
Stagnation as Legacy
One illustration of the relevance of agility comes by reflecting on the highly dynamic post-quarantine world. As businesses rushed into digitalization to stay afloat in a world where consumers were locked in their homes, the virtual sphere of commerce became the “new normal” in the blink of an eye. Now, practically every business has adopted some level of e-commerce and often D2C models that were practically required during lockdown. But what happened during that rapid transition? Some businesses were already testing the virtual waters, and others were happy with their brick and mortar models, but in a matter of just a few months, it became clear that the brands that would stick around were the ones who were able to adapt.
The point here is not to trivialize digitalization, and certainly not to paint the pandemic as a typical stumbling block, but this extreme shift in the playing field gave us an undeniable example of the power of agility. In real time, we witnessed how the brands that were able to adapt to the change were able to stick around, and how those that stuck to legacy models and traditional plans often just faded away. In a less extreme case, as trends continue to shift and change in a matter of days or even hours, these legacy approaches may not spell doom, but they will certainly spell stagnation.
A Strong Foundation
A strong foundation is important, of course, but maybe a change in perspective can make it more relevant. Instead of seeing the foundation as an initial plan, a strong foundation should refer to a team of agile-minded workers, ready to play off of each other’s strengths in the face of change and adversity. The hard skills are certainly important, but making sure workers truly function as a team and are quick and clever enough on their feet to develop solutions in real time is rapidly becoming the gold standard for a well-oiled business.
There will always be lessons to learn from tradition, and to learn from different legacy tools and mindsets, but as rapid change continues to be the playing field of the business world, it should be clear that the future is nothing if not agile.
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