Mike Tyson said it best, “Everyone has a plan: until they get punched in the mouth.”
Despite the undeniable truth of that statement, preparation for that inevitable haymaker ensures that even as you stumble back to find your footing, training kicks in and muscle memory takes over.
Likewise, if there’s anything this year has taught us, it’s that the organizations who invested in best practices and planted that tree for tomorrow, even while the getting was good, were those that have been able to effectively create change.
When we’re faced with new circumstances that alter the fabric of how we’ve always operated, agility becomes the determining factor of success. As such, agility must be vertically integrated into your organization in order to yield results.
Here are the keys to doing just that:
Most organizations zero in on making money; it’s the result of ‘data-driven marketing,’ not to mention ROI being a critical factor in growing a business. But how much do you pay attention to how the value you deliver is perceived by the people you serve?
In order to set the stage for agility, you must have a clear line to customer headspace and understand how to translate that into healthy business practices. Without it, you won’t be able to adapt as circumstances change.
After all, your solution means nothing if it’s not solving the problem your customers have. And without customers, revenue goes right out the window. Keep acquisition and retention in balance and you’ll have a solid foundation for everything else.
Organizations that have succeeded this year, despite devastating odds, clearly understood customer goals prior to the pandemic – this was their North Star.
Once changes came, they quickly worked with their clients to understand how recent events shaped those goals and shifted their joint success metrics accordingly.
They were able to calibrate this and made sure that their part in their customers’ operation was mission critical. This is only possible with company-wide alignment around why the customer needs you.
Not only do you need to have agreement between departments, but you also must have a single source of truth for understanding how you as a partner are performing against this goal.
When your buyer’s world suddenly changes, you can work quickly to mobilize your teams toward understanding the impact of that change, updating your customer metrics, and invest in influencing success.
You already have your daisy chain of insight, execution and optimization established, you simply move the goal post and run. This is how you get your business focused on a singular North Star and create a truly agile business.
Alignment around a single source of truth and deep customer understanding requires having the right people in place. Hire empathetic professionals with a high degree of business savvy and a thirst for perpetual learning.
The best leaders spend equal time understanding and optimizing their teams as they do work on initiatives. In fact, talent development must be an initiative.
Crisis is not the time to micromanage. You need teams of folks who can, with clear direction, operate with a high degree of autonomy.
Strong employees become even stronger when they feel vested ownership in mission critical initiatives. Not many organizations are willing to admit it, but there was a large amount of convenient house-cleaning guised as COVID-driven furlough and layoffs.
But organizations who viewed talent enablement as a core competency of growth were able to reap those rewards in the form of distributed leadership that rose to the occasion.
Agility extends beyond people and into the processes and technology that support them. If you’ve worked agility into your organizational DNA, it shouldn’t require a lot of operational effort to ebb and flow with the waves of new circumstances.
This means ensuring that all potential channels and motions are operationally ready and everyone is prepared to pivot quickly.
If you find yourself in a place where you now have to create the entire operational motion for pivoting that spend into say, digital ads and content, that’s a big parachute to build while the earth gets closer by the second. When these things happen there’s no climbing back into the plane.
If you’ve taken the time to educate your sales force on inside motions, have virtual meeting and collaboration software in place and keep a small trickle running through all potential go-to-market options, it’s much easier to then turn that spicket on full blast because the infrastructure is there.
These four key elements considered, what if you realize there’s been a breakdown on your end? How do you begin to right the ship?
First, respect the gravity of the disconnect and fall on your sword. Admit you haven’t done well serving that customer and want to learn how you can better serve them. Secondly, follow through on the feedback you get.
There’s no telling when business and world climates will go back to normal, if ever, or when they’ll change on a dime again in a different way. But if you set yourself up to have a strong foundation, with agility at its core, you’ll be positioned to ride out the storms and continue on the path to success.
Justin Gray is a serial entrepreneur and the CEO and founder of LeadMD, the world’s largest revenue performance consultancy, having implemented over half of the Marketo user base. Justin has made a career of launching successful companies and scaling them, with successful exits of over 200MM+ in the last decade.
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