Many would argue that the more established a business is, the harder it is for that organization to make sudden changes. They assume that established systems of checks and balances, protocols and hierarchy makes moving quickly in any one direction a difficult endeavor for such organizations. However, despite this assumption, many established businesses have been able to pivot quickly and find opportunity during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But how did these businesses do it?
When asked how his organization was able to innovate during the pandemic, P360 CEO and Founder Anupam Nandwana said, “our entire organization has been built upon agile principles, and we work extremely hard to maintain an agile work environment.”
P360 specializes in technology for the life sciences industry, and has 120 employees with offices in New Jersey, Australia and India. The company successfully launched a line of IoT enabled smart devices called Swittons during the pandemic, as staff worked remotely from several different time zones.
“Our ability to maintain an agile mindset during the pandemic is what kept us innovating,” added Nandwana. “This type of mindset includes collaboration, mutual respect, a hunger to learn new things, a focus on delivering value and the ability to adapt to change.”
Today more than ever before, we live in a world of constant change. Consumer behavior, product life cycles, advances in technology and competitive landscapes seem to shift and bend before our eyes. Changes that once took years, or even decades, now take quarters – and sometimes months. That is why more and more organizations are adopting agile principles as part of their standard operating procedure. Even large enterprises like Johnson & Johnson have adopted agile principles.
Highlighting their commitment to this complete, company wide cultural shift is the progress they made in their business units across the globe during COVID-19.
“COVID-19 impacted several projects from an execution standpoint,” said Carrie Richardson, EMEA Marketing Director for Baby and Oral Care at Johnson & Johnson. “Whether it was R&D colleagues unable to attend labs, stability facilities shutting down, lack of raw material availability, or a need to pivot to changing consumer behavior, there was a real focus on the part of the EMEA region to adapt. Thanks to an agile mindset, we were able to re-prioritize projects, focus on supply and create sprints on COVID-19 category impacts, which resulted in Johnson & Johnson delivering on its brand promise.”
A key component of an agile mindset is that of customer obsession. Innovating for the sake of innovation has its merits, but when matched with customer obsession, that innovation takes on purpose.
Unfortunately, many of the companies that believe they are customer-obsessed really aren’t. Their language embraces the idea, but their practices don’t reflect it because achieving a customer-obsessed culture isn’t all that simple. It requires a deep investment and thorough commitment to agile principles.
“To become truly customer-obsessed, organizations should look to their customers to help guide product development,” said Anupam Nandwana. “During the COVID-19 crisis, we have become even closer to our customers than ever before, and this is something they have been grateful for. This customer-obsessed way of working has helped us cut down on guesswork, and has enabled us to develop the products our customers have been looking for.”
Working with customers to develop new products helps organizations make changes immediately, when needed. The old way of doing product development was to first create something, and then go out to the market to see what the response would be. This not only created product development cycles that were extremely inefficient, but that were potentially costly as well.
“When you develop a product without customer involvement, you are working somewhat blindly,” added Nandwana. “Customers can change their minds during the process, this is true. However, it is better to work through a little indecisiveness in the beginning than to face customer rejection in the end.”
This brings up another key component of an agile mindset, adaptability. The ability to adapt to change quickly is the foundation of any agile organization. Historically, people, process and technology operated in very specific silos. This way of operating creates inefficient dependencies and is the cause of much delay. Working without silos, across business units, inclusive of all job functions, is what makes agile workplaces so effective.
Agile workplaces are not only proving to be more effective, employees actually prefer them. A recent survey found that employees would even be willing to give up some of their annual salary for the opportunity to work in an agile work environment. Over 85% said they would even change jobs to accommodate this preference.
The reason for this is simple, agile workplaces place more emphasis on the employee and not necessarily the job function or title. This leads to improved well-being, sense of happiness and job satisfaction.
“At P360, big ideas and solutions to problems can come from anywhere,” said Nandwana. “Just because I’m the CEO doesn’t mean I’m always right, and my team enjoys the fact that I don’t have to control every aspect of our business.”