Business Agility

Agile software development methods have now crossed the hype curve and are becoming well established in the information technology mainstream. However outside the IT realm, companies implementing organisation change to increase their business agility invariably make these changes using classical “waterfall style” change management techniques. A classical business change initiative might well involve a multi-year change programme plan, with every aspect meticulously mapped out in advance with carefully calculated effort, costs and milestone dates sufficiently squeezed and business benefits sufficiently inflated to secure budgetary approval. A brave and heroic group of planners will have worked out exactly what every person either undertaking the change or affected by the change will be doing on a day by day basis months and sometimes years in advance. Of course defining end-state business processes at the beginning of a major change programme is likely to be as reliable as trying to define end-user requirements at the beginning of a major waterfall IT development. It is a disaster waiting to happen. Given that hugely successful agile software development techniques are in fact all about effective human organisation and not technology, why don’t we instead use these when making business change? Well, Saprev does and you can read more on this subject in our Robert Morley’s book “Agile in Business – a guide for company leadership” available on Amazon.

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Vita Interrupta

Mobile and Work/Life Balance

Some key issues – and how to think about them

Key Issue

It’s a joke when we think of senior executives being interrupted in all sorts of situations during the day – and night – by their mobile device. That insistent ping as a new, vital email or SMS or instant message plops into a mobile may well signal a whole series of Pavlovian responses in future years. I’ve already seen a breakfast interrupted by the same ping as a toaster announced it had delivered a hot slice of bread – and enjoyed the spectacle.

You can already see the stress it can create in a train or in a restaurant as twenty people react to one person’s device announcing its tyranny before the lucky recipient works out it is his or hers. And I think all of us rather smugly assume that the receiver can always turn a device off – or ignore the ping – and then find that we can’t actually do that.

The Latin word interruptus, usually only associated with one context, will be added to any number of words now as in my sub-heading above: life interrupted.

Significance

The significance is that the early twenty first century will be remembered as the time when interruption became not only acceptable, but expected. We have created a real benefit – you can now get hold of someone 24/7 and both business life and personal life is easier and more fulfilling as a result. You only have to think of a missing child to appreciate that. We have that comforting feeling when we don’t need to know where someone is, that we can very quickly find out if it is necessary.

The problem is that we don’t have any rules or etiquette – how could we have as for most of human existence it wasn’t a problem, an opportunity or whatever we’d like to call it. As a result, we are suffering, both as individuals and as a society. In just the same way that in polite British society you pass the port to the left – probably allowing you to keep your right hand free in case you wanted to stab your neighbour in the good old days – we need to understand how to behave.

The problem is that all of us, including me, will happily frown on weak souls allowing themselves to be interrupted, but, at the same time, all of us feel a little pride in being important enough to be required to respond at the most inconvenient moment. And more than that – there are sometimes such important messages that we will genuinely ask: why wasn’t I interrupted?

The Approach

I’m increasingly going back to basics with this question: when is interruption acceptable?

There are some parameters that we all instinctively feel are right, however. There is obviously a scale of importance: I don’t think I need to be interrupted to be told the shares rose 0.1% or that Ambrose has finished his rusk. But what are the thresholds behind this? If they rose 1% – is that important enough? If Ambrose hadn’t eaten for two days, does that change the basis?

There is also the time of day to be taken into account, as it is clearly not as acceptable to interrupt someone’s life at 3.00am. The problem is that a good deal of my colleagues are usually travelling and I don’t actually know which time zone they are on. (It has to be said that many of them similarly don’t know which time zone they are on – but that makes it harder not easier.)

The only measure I can think of is my own response, not as sender but as receiver – and that is what I mean by basics. If I were receiving this message, would I have thought it important enough to have been interrupted?

But with one vital addition.

In retrospect, perhaps as quickly as a day later, will I still have that view about the interruption’s importance?

Outcomes

I think we’re going to struggle for a long time with this – and I don’t think that we can rely on the emotional intelligence of everyone to implement the solution that I’ve outlined above and which I try to use.

I guess what we need is a new signal that we can give to the world. Instead of that rather useful word busy, we need a new way of saying we’re uninterruptible. It has to be short, sharp, snappy and easily spelt. Off Limits?

But then I can hear someone immediately saying, except when . .

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Social Media

The first major business accelerator in new markets was the mobile phone – it unleashed entrepreneurship where none existed before. The same effect was present in developed markets but wasn’t so visible as other channels to market and information were already present.

The arrival of the smart phone, typically with internet access and a range of applications that could underpin business activity, provided a further stimulus – but it created by no means the same revolution in attitudes and activity.

The emergence of social media integrated tightly into a smart phone, however, is providing the same sort of kick start to business as the arrival of the mobile networks, where a range of new and dynamic business models is being generated by the combination.

Peer to peer networks change business dynamics – and that is what social media are. By-passing conventional business channels and established networks, social media, where people select their counterparts on different criteria, are creating a rapid and changing business environment. Just look at the effect crow sourcing is having on the market for small investments to realise the potential that is being unleashed.

Conventional channel management and established marketing strategies will all continue to work, but without understanding how the integrated world of smart phones and social media work, businesses will lose market share, market presence and also market information.

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