Domains of Business Agility

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The world is changing more rapidly than ever before and organisations of every size are struggling to remain relevant in the eyes of their customers. The simple fact that the average lifespan of a company has decreased by more than 50 years in the last century[1] demonstrates that not all organisations are prepared for this new reality. It is only high-performing, adaptable and agile organisations that will leverage, lead and thrive in this ambiguous and unpredictable market. We call this business agility.

 The problem with a statement like that is that there is no common definition of what business agility means. And that's actually a good thing. In a dynamic and changing market trying to lock it down will defeat the very advantage it brings. Instead, I want you to start thinking of business agility as the common thread. An adaptable and sustainable narrative that binds & guides, rather than directs, us into the uncertain future.

Domains of Business Agility

Therefore, to understand business agility is to understand the Domains of Business Agility. A simple model consisting of 9 interacting domains across 3 dimensions and centered around the customer. Not a pyramid or matrix, but rather a model of agility where each of the domains in each of the dimensions are equal, necessary, interrelated, and dependent on each other. No single domain is “above” or more important than any of the others. Business agility only emerges when your organisation can “be” agile across all the domains across all facets of your organisation.

Business agility creates purpose-driven organisations. For most companies their Customer is their purpose, however in public sector or social-good organisations the definition of the Customer is much broader. Regardless of how it is defined, your Customer is at the heart of the model and shapes your organisation. Surrounding the Customer are the three dimensions: Work, Connections and Mindset:

  1. The three domains under the Work Dimension govern how an agile organisation operates.
    1. From Technical Agility at the individual activity level,
    2. to Process Agility at the value stream level, and
    3. scaling to Enterprise Agility at the organisational level.
  2. The Connections Dimension governs the relationships that form within and outside the organisation.
    1. Structural Agility that defines the relationships between individuals, teams & divisions,
    2. Leadership Agility that defines the relationship with authority and
    3. Market Agility that defines the relationship with our users and the wider market.
  3. Finally, the Mindset Dimension is concerned with governing the key characteristics of an agile organisation;
    1. a Learning Mindset,
    2. a Collaboration Mindset, and
    3. an Ownership Mindset.

Successful business agility requires all of the domains in this model to work in concert with each other. Organisations that are seeing diminishing returns from their current agile adoption, need to start looking at agility as a continuous and systemic evolution of culture, people and skills rather than specifically focusing on transforming one or two domains.

What you won't see in this model is a method or framework like Scrum, Kanban, or Beyond Budgeting - though you will see where they fit and how they work in conjunction to build a high performing organisation. The purpose of this model is to show you what to strive for, rather than what to do.

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