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  • Bobby Lansing

Don't Do Agile... Have Agility

UPDATE: 10/29/2019

I will be honest, I hated the original title of this post "Agility-Focused Workflows". I kept thinking back about it over the last few weeks and continued to hate it even more. It sounds like it is a program that you buy into when in reality, Agility is a mindset.

There is a specific reason I am not using the word AGILE, which is that various industries have packaged agile into a thing that you do. Whereas agility is a mindset that you have. It is required to survive in today's ever-changing landscape. That is the message I am trying to get across.

Agile is a thing that you do...Agility is a mindset that you have


When building agility into an organization, we must constantly react to changing business needs. This could be glaring problems or untapped potential. When designing solutions like new workflows or technical systems to fill these needs we must clearly define the problem we are encountering. This can help break out the symptoms of an issue from its root cause, allowing us to smartly target causal factors to solve the problem.

One major issue encountered by all businesses today (including SMB and every Military unit I have ever worked for) is finding the right balance between workflows and agility. Agility on one hand is a concept allowing an organization to flex quickly to a changing marketplace landscape. Workflows, on the other hand, are codified ways of doing business, that are disseminated throughout an organization to improve efficiency and enforce standardization. Based on this view, the two concepts are at direct odds with each other and fair criticism can be pointed in both directions at some of their respective failure points.

So I am going to propose a middle ground, a grand compromise, that you and your organization should consider as a framework for how to properly structure yourself for the future. As the pace of change increases, so does our need to maneuver. For example, if taxi companies don't change their technology and pricing schemes, Uber and Lyft will drive them out of business. In the food industry, the Safeway / Albertsons merger changed a lot in the way the two companies bought and sold products. Food manufacturers needed to react to this change in local vs national buying strategies as well as employ different tactics for getting their products on the shelves.

How do we do this?

It starts with Agility. An agility mindset accepts that the world is constantly changing and at an increasing pace. We must be poised to react, never relaxing for too long that we lose sight of our environment. With agility as the foundation, we also must accept that workflows can provide enormous value for an organization. Not only does it help to remove the individual from the work product, which also removes the single point of failure problem, but by automating those workflows we can set our organization up for so much more success. Now we can scale our operation to larger clients or industries. We can increase morale by allowing data analysts to analyze data rather than format Excel and PowerPoint documents.

Additionally, and arguably more important is that we can spend our time researching areas for further efficiency and flexibility; engraining agility into the organization as a result. Let's look at an example of somewhere agility can improve a business.

There are thousands of businesses that sell products via Amazon, either direct, FBA, or Marketplace. These businesses download CSV files on a weekly or monthly basis that show historical records of their sales. These CSVs are then thrown into a PivotTable where the data is analyzed. When it comes time for data to update, the process is typically run all over again, or a template Excel workbook may be used in rare cases. In any case, there is room for manual error and wasted time in this workflow.

Consider a system that completely automates this workflow, or at least part of it, so that the data simply pushes to a dashboard or report, populating Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), charts, graphs, and tables that tell a story about product sales over time, trend analysis for the latest quarter or year, etc. These metrics are built, vetted, and published.

Now, this analyst spends their time analyzing the data, looking for deep insights, like that their greatest revenue comes from return customers, so they need to incentivize customer loyalty in a cost-effective manner. They can also take this data and merge or fuse it with other sources, to see how their products are performing compared to other brands in the category. If toothpaste purchases are increasing for all brands but mine, I must be doing something wrong.

This is the goal of infusing agility into your workflows. We can empower employees to work with an agility mindset because we are automating the mundane and allowing them to work more effectively. If the system is designed properly, we can also make changes as new needs arise. The data will already be processed and we can build new perspectives in our changing landscape.

If you are interested in infusing your organization with an Agility mindset, give us a call!


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