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Making the impossible possible?

Until early March in 2020, it seemed that ‘agile’ had become a slightly faddish term, flung about often slightly bureaucratic businesses to make them feel they were doing things collaboratively and quickly (in reality, probably less slowly). “We use agile methodology”, “Let’s do that in an agile way”, “We’re putting an agile team to work on it”…. We’ve all heard these and similar phrases.

Lockdown has shown us real agile working.  2,900 critical care beds in London Excell in a matter of days, 1m customer deliveries by Tesco in a week, 10,000 ventilators to be built by consortium including the McLaren F1 team and tens of thousands of call centre staff working from home, the list of extraordinary achievements goes on.  And, it’s not just the big firms.  On Saturday we received a beautifully presented, prepped and packaged meal from one of Edinburgh’s well known restaurants, Six by Nico, which we could ‘put together’ at home and enjoy a fine dining experience.   None of these, and the many other impressive recent achievements, were on any business plans less that eight weeks ago and would have seemed impossible.  And yet, they have all happened.

What the Covid response has given us, is a great lesson in really understanding needs – what do the people we serve really need from us?  Keep us safe, keep us fed, keep us alive?  The purity in the understanding of these needs in these unusual times helped align entire organisations and systems to collaborate and create fast, efficient and innovative solutions.

Now we are turning our minds to the next stage, coming out of Covid.  Speaking to clients, partners and other business leaders, the talk is about how to hold on to some of the new ways of working that have emerged in their businesses.  Covid has been an enormous ‘change agent’ – the very epitome of a burning platform.  Now that we are starting to put the fire out, it would be wise to find a way to continue on the change journey that has been triggered.

If you have managed to get a new product or distribution channel up and running in a matter of days or weeks, why go back to months or even years.  If you have discovered a new way to help your existing (or even new) customers, why stop?

And so, as we start to wander back to our new normality, we would benefit from keeping a hold of this simple concept:  what need are we really meeting in the word? When we understand that, and align everything behind it, we can unleash the potential of our businesses on our customers in an innovative, dynamic and, dare I say, agile way.

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