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Flexibility vs. Agility: How to Find Success in Challenging Times

Updated: Nov 9, 2022

By Emily Gerber, CEO

Recently, we helped manage a situation where the Operations Manager had a different vision for what the company should be doing than the business owner. The business owner, though well-meaning, said they didn’t want to “pin themselves down” to certain verbiage, and that caused a lot of miscommunication!

COVID has taught us that we need to be flexible, and that’s a pretty good example of needing to be willing to change. But there’s a dark side of flexibility: too little, and you’re butting heads with your team, and too much, you’re all over the place! There must be clear standards for some parts of your business that just don’t change –– otherwise you’ll never be able to be consistent.

Inconsistencies lead to gaps in communication with the team, unclear vision/direction, team members going this way or that, trying to figure it out as they go. That’s the problem you were trying to avoid in the first place, right? Uh oh!

This illustrates the difference between being agile, and being flexible. Two VERY different things in the world of business, and in general, that we often confuse.

There are two aspects of your business that nothing should change:

  1. Group Buy-in of Vision/Mission/Purpose

No one should ever get left behind on this point. If your whole team doesn’t agree with a change, you need to stop and figure out why. Maybe they’re being stubborn, sure, but oftentimes it means there’s room for improvement, and you need to take the advice!

Most struggles with a workforce come from lack of communication, or an unclear vision of why the leaders are doing what they are doing. If you can bring them in on the why, invite them to buy in on the vision, they will understand their role and react synergistically when changes come.

and 2. Your Why

Leadership having a clear understanding of the direction they would like to go-this shouldn’t change even if the whole world does. It’s not the destination, it’s the why. Leadership leads with knowledge that things might not work out, but as they continue to point the team in the right direction, their questions will suddenly be solvable on their own.

The cycles of project management also come in pairs: waterfall and agile. It’s great to start out with a plan and direction. In fact, that’s crucial. So many companies just start doing things without having a set plan, more than you’d think! That being said, the plan needs to begin with the intention that the best laid plan changes at certain checkpoints to adapt to the environment around it. Not changing every day, but at specific checkpoints. Let’s look at two ways to manage your projects, and see what makes them better (or worse) for goal achieving.

  1. Waterfall Methodology

This is the project management term that means coming up with a large scale plan, including all the steps, and then when you’re done, following those steps from start to finish. It doesn’t leave a lot of room for change and error –– once you’ve planned something, you’ve planned it. It’s more or less set in stone. Ever worked in a place like that?

  1. Agile Project Management

This process comes from the software development world, where the minute the idea is created, a new technology is developed that changes the world, and thus the initial plan. With the new tech, the original idea is no longer able to work in the same way.

This doesn’t mean project management is thrown out the window simply because there are changes to the outside world that affect the product’s outcome – they plan for change along the way, making sure their goals and objectives are prepared to wiggle around a little.

The Difference

Ambysoft's 2013 Project Success Rates Survey concluded that the agile method has a 64% success rate, compared to just 49% for the waterfall model. These failure rates are usually due to the awesome original idea not actually being the best once the plan is in action.

In order to find success, a plan must be able to move and flex with the current social, legal, economic, political, and technological world around it. A good place to start planning? Industry analysis, which takes a macro look at what’s happening in those areas of the world relevant to the industry that your company is in.

When we are strong on our mission/vision, and when leaders stay consistent –– not necessarily to the plan, but to their ability to lead no matter the environment –– companies will be able to thrive during any challenges they meet. For our clients, and for our own business, we’ve adapted Agile-style project management to our business timelines. This allows us to come up with a plan, but be ready to make changes in order to reach the “best outcome.”

Ready to get started? Revamp your project management style and more with us. Book a consultation here, or navigate to the “Book Online” tab of our website.


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