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Article 4 min read

Shaping an agile culture

By Michael Schweidler, Senior Marketing Manager EMEA

Last updated November 3, 2021

In 2020, just 16 per cent of executives said they were confident that their firm’s drive for digital transformation was succeeding. In any year, this would have been an eye-opening — for many a discomforting — statistic. During a year in which enterprises were spending billions to accelerate digitisation by seven years, it’s shocking.

One of the most common reasons that technological transformation doesn’t yield the expected returns has nothing to do with the tech itself. It’s down to culture. To make the best use of AI, automation and other tools, teams and individuals must be able to adapt, to work in new ways and to change how they work as need arises. In short, they need to learn to be agile.

What are agile organisations and why do we need them?

Agile methodology prioritises results over process. It achieves this,

  • by privileging ways of working which bring together and get the best results from people (over prescriptive ways of using mandated tools and processes);

  • by moving forward in small incremental steps, rather than working toward the grand unveiling of a perfect final release;

  • and by adapting quickly to changing circumstances.

An agile organisation is able to develop and quickly apply flexible, nimble and dynamic capabilities. As a result, it has the capacity to respond, adapt quickly and thrive in highly volatile environments. And that’s precisely what we live in today: In a world where a company’s competitive advantage is unlikely to be sustainable over the longer term, what matters more is the ability to maintain the ‘cognitive advantage’, the mindsets and ability to adapt, and to manage change, speed, and innovation in particular.

COVID-19 and the experience of lockdown has disrupted everything from consumer retail behaviour to brand loyalty. Online shopping spiked during the pandemic, and it’s still open if this trend may have long-term staying power, even as life returns to normal.

This leaves the market very much in flux, with nothing we can take for granted but everything still to play for. To win in this environment many organisations turn to adopting every means possible of becoming flexible, scalable and fast.

Non-agile organisations lagged their agile counterparts by up to 52 per cent in a range of key performance metrics in recent research by McKinsey. More than 70 per cent of executives said they were working on making their companies agile.

6 steps to building an agile CX culture

Agility is particularly important in customer service and customer experience (CX). While any change in enterprise culture ultimately requires a holistic approach, CX teams and professionals are at the front line of customer interaction. A third of customers will drop a brand after just one bad experience. To ensure this doesn’t happen, customer-facing functions need more than anyone else to be agile in responding to changing customer needs and market conditions.

Here are 6 ways companies and CX teams can become agile:

  1. Have a clear purpose and vision. This will guide all your teams’ actions and help them be consistent and goal-oriented, even when moving at speed.

  2. Invest in new capabilities. An agile firm requires a new set of cognitive, interpersonal, self-leadership and not at least digital skills — from the ability to work with AI, through critical thinking to interpreting customer data — which have the potential to rapidly add value to the enterprise.
  3. “Role model” new mind-sets and behaviours authentically and build transparency and trust, so that even in a rapidly evolving environment people have the courage to innovate.

  4. Build flat team structures, with rapid decision-making cycles and lines of responsibility determined by function rather than seniority, so that those with the right ideas or knowledge have the authority to innovate.

  5. Create frameworks and processes that enable and drive innovation across functions, so you can quickly adapt to new digital enhancements and position for scale and CX evolution.

  6. Consider using shorter meeting formats such as daily scrums or sprints as ways to communicate. They can provide a way to build more effective collaboration within your teams, generate creative solutions and eliminate roadblocks together with your team.
    The key to success is to adopt the technologies it needs to break down silos in the CX-infrastructure. But this technology needs to meet a culture that encourages and enables initiative taking, rapid reconfigurations of business and technical processes, and agility in responding to changing customer needs.
    When agile technology meets and meshes with an agile, transparent and enabling culture, the conditions for agility and innovation are there. With the right approach, the right edge over their competitors, both today and in the hyperconnected market of tomorrow.