Agility is the New Scale
This article was published in the Winter 2020 issue
by Matthew Prezzano, Account Executive, Slack
At Slack Technologies we’re students of the way people work together, and there is an ongoing conversation about how work is changing. We believe that in an increasingly dynamic world, the fundamental business advantage is organizational agility - the ability for individuals, teams and organizations to maintain alignment while continually transforming to meet evolving challenges. As we approach the end of 2020 it’s important to look back at the year in tech. But even more important is to look forward to what the future of work will look like.
If we had to choose a single theme running underneath all the many changes we’re seeing in the world of work since the pandemic started, it would be this- acceleration. In the past, economies of scale were the dominant force in any market: the first companies to get big grabbed the best resources at the lowest costs and ate up market share. Scale created a moat, discouraging new entrants and preserving the status quo.
Today, scale may confer real advantages but it’s just as likely to prove a liability (for instance a bank that’s carrying 900 retail branches might struggle to defend against the all-digital, mobile banking startup).
Even before the pandemic of 2020 it was clear that agility had become the new scale; the winners would be the companies that stayed closest to their customers and pivoted fastest to serve them better. Today the push to increase agility has accelerated dramatically.
What 2020 has shown us is that the next “new normal” will be that nimble wins. The more dynamic and uncertain the times, the greater the value of organizational agility. But while agility as a business advantage has been understood for many years, it’s only recently emerged as a methodology or set of behaviors.
The ideas captured in Scrum, Kanban, DevOps, Design Thinking and Agile Project Management have escaped into the wider world of work. And the results speak for themselves.
Instead of simply rushing to return to the way things used to be, I’m seeing business leaders in places like Utah and Silicon Valley double down on agility—looking for ways to design work to be more lean, agile, resilient and “anti-fragile”.
In the next year and decade the best companies will be the most agile and responsive. And they are already taking active steps to increase their agility in the following ways:
-Faster decision-making. Removing hierarchy and bureaucracy to speed up time to action.
-Power to the front line. HQ’s job isn’t to make every call. It’s to empower the people doing the work with the data they need to make better calls.
-Strategic alignment. Agility can only work when you’re pivoting from a stable place. The whole organization needs to be aligned around things like values, mission and strategy.
-An agile mindset. Training for resilience and agility is different from training for productivity and efficiency. New skills and a new orientation towards continuous improvement are needed.
Agility has always been a virtue. Now it’s become a systematized methodology—as seen in dev teams everywhere. Agility as the new scale came out of conversations that colleagues at Slack are having with our customers and with other business leaders we admire. Work is changing faster today than it ever has. And this is the slowest it will ever be.
We believe the winners in every market will be the companies that best understand the changing shape of work, that let go of legacy thinking, and that fully embrace the opportunities created by “the next normal”.
For more on the 5 major accelerations happening right now please visit info.slackhq.com/disruption-of-work
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*Read the latest issue of Silicon Slopes Magazine, Winter 2020