Business leaders have a lot more in common with dinosaurs than most would probably like to admit. The biggest similarity, said Meyer Agile Information president Pamela Meyer during her NSCA Business & Leadership Conference opening keynote, is the desire to avoid threats and uncertainty.
In her BLC presentation, “Making the Agility Shift: Creating Agile and Effective Leaders, Teams and Organizations,” Meyer highlighted the importance of focusing on agility in business, not just now in the pandemic-focused business environment, but even after there’s more certainty in what comes next.
“Your role as a leader is to strike a balance between policies that create stability, efficiency and control and those with flexibility, agility, curiosity and innovation,” she said. “You need stability to sustain performance and flexibility to respond to changes.”
Agility, said Meyer, is the ability to respond effectively to the unexpected and unplanned and quickly turn challenges into opportunities. There are two main types of agility, she said: adaptive and entrepreneurial. Clearly, business leaders are focused most on the entrepreneurial one.
Agility is about overcoming volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, said Meyer. Businesses typically follow a lifecycle that takes them from startup to growth before a divergent path that leads them either to acceleration or a plateau or decline, she said.
“You have a critical role in making sure you’re ready for this moment,” said Meyer. “Agility isn’t just accelerated planning. It’s about doing things differently.”
Why Agility Makes Such a Big Difference
Agile firms, said Meyer, generate about 30 percent more revenue on average than stagnant ones so business leaders must ask themselves not only what can be improves if they become more agile but what it will cost them if they don’t.
“There’s a good chance you can be left behind,” she said. The ultimate metric of your agility, said Meyer, is sustained performance through both stable and volatile conditions.
The relational web, Meyer said, helps you use your skills, talents and resources to increase your agility. It comes through being relevant, responsive (not reactive), resilient, resourceful and reflective.
“Being agile starts with a mindset shift,” said Meyer, highlight the phenomenon known as anxious confidence. “That’s the perfect mindset for agility and high performance. It doesn’t come easy for us to find opportunities in the midst of a challenge. We want to get back to our comfort zones.
“Agile leaders spot challenges and opportunities and effectively respond,” she said.
To make the shift happen, said Meyer, business leaders must expand their relational webs, empower decision-making and clarify decision rights and model continuous learning.
Agile teams can learn, adapt and innovate in the midst of a challenge while using their available resources, said Meyer. That means moving from a planning mindset to one focused on preparation. Business should have rapid feedback and communication loops, she said.
That allows them to “fall faster and learn more quickly,” said Meyer.
An agile organization, she said, is a human system of interactions.
To be more successful, business must make space for agility, plan for future disruptions, engage in scenario planning and find and celebrate new learning opportunities, progress and small wins, said Meyer.
Agile businesses engender a feeling of comfort, consistency, confidence, competency and control, she said. By engaging in responsibility and intentionality, you will bring about better results, said Meyer.