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7 ways to improve your company's speed and agility

Contributor: Stuart Cross
Posted: 01/16/2014
7 ways to improve your company's speed and agility
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Every CEO I know wants their business to be faster and more agile, but many are unclear as to how that can be achieved. Here are seven ideas you can use with your clients and companies to increase speed and agility.

#1: Saying "No" regularly

In most companies there are many more good ideas than there are people to implement them, but if you fail to focus and say "Yes" to all these ideas, you simply end up slowing down your organisation.

As the Japanese saying goes, you can’t chase two hares. A couple of years, ago I helped a UK retailer identify some new category opportunities. I came up with three or four growth options and suggested that they trial each of them. "No," replied the CEO immediately. "The biggest prize is in Option 1 so let’s put all our effort behind that one." The energy in the room immediately changed. The new level of focus created a buzz around the big opportunity and the retailer had a successful trial on the ground within 4 weeks.

#2: Set a #1 goal

I never use balanced scorecards as a way of setting strategy – they simply give you too many objectives and priorities. I much prefer to identify a single, leading goal and then use other KPI’s as supporting, not competing measures. Back in 2005, for example, the UK’s Sky TV started to deliver rapid growth when the executive team set a specific, #1 goal of growing its number of subscribers from 6 million to 10 million by 2010. The clarity of the goal gave the organisation the focus to rapidly develop new growth initiatives.

#3: Become a partnership expert

Google’s willingness to partner with other companies has enabled the company to accelerate the take-up of its Android operating system. In contrast, from its market peak in 2005, Nokia’s determination to develop in-house solutions restricted its ability to develop successful new innovations in this fast-changing market. As its market share and profitability declined, the company was forced into an alliance with Microsoft, but this move was too little too late, and in 2013 Nokia’s mobile phone business was sold to its partner.

#4: Rapid, low-cost trials and prototypes

There is often a desire to develop the perfect solution before testing it. However, if you’re trying something new, the chances are it will fail in some way. You are better off trying to fail – and learn - as quickly and as cheaply as you can rather than attempting to seek immediate perfection. As WW2 leader, General Patton, once said, "A good solution applied with vigour now is better than a perfect solution applied ten minutes later."

#5: Zero based budgeting

The world is changing rapidly and you can no longer simply fund last year’s activities (plus or minus a few percent) and expect to thrive. Instead, you must start with a clean sheet of paper each year and determine, given your goals, where you will invest. Use this process as a way to involve your teams to identify where you are wasting time, effort and resources, and critically review the returns you are getting from the investment of your people and your financial investments.

#6: The end of 3-year plans

It’s good to have longer-term objectives, but you also need pace in implementation that 3-year plans cannot possibly deliver. I have worked with several companies to implement new, more dynamic planning and management processes that focus on the next 9 months, and that have a more specific focus on delivery in the next quarter. My clients are still focused on their big goals, but now have more flexibility to adjust how they achieve them.

#7: Process improvements that are focused on speed not cost

The objective of many process improvement projects is to cut cost. The problem with this approach is that it can mean your activities take longer as you add new controls and more sign-offs to the process. By focusing your process improvements on speed (time to market, delivery responsiveness, time to build your product) you will, inevitably, focus on reducing the waste and delay in your current processes and end up reducing your costs as well.

Which of these seven ideas could help you improve the speed and agility of your business?

© Stuart Cross 2014. All rights reserved.

Stuart Cross is the president of Morgan Cross Consulting and helps leading companies including Alliance Boots, GSK and Dunelm to accelerate growth. His book, The CEO’s Strategy Handbook is out now, and Stuart can be reached on +44-1636-526111 or via the website, www.morgancross.co.uk.


Thank you, for your interest in 7 ways to improve your company's speed and agility.
Stuart Cross
Contributor: Stuart Cross