Business agility is closely related to something called “agile project management”, an approach to constantly reassess and adjust priorities and being flexible as the circumstances change, so that you maximize your desired outcomes.Think about it — we live in a world where everything is connected, and connection is instantaneous. Information moves so fast, we must be agile in responding.

If you are working with a strategic plan, you know that your goals, objectives and activities typically change over the course of the multi-year plan.  Have you noticed that in recent years they are changing even more quickly? Sometimes there are external factors that force change – funding, geography, economy, technology, regulations, leadership and more. If you want to remain competitive and take advantage of new opportunities, then the ability to anticipate change and adapt quickly is critical. Is your Center or Council ready to shift and change quickly if you need to?

If your leadership tends to get bogged down in long discussions and to deliberate across many meetings before making a decision, then being agile will take some willingness to consider other models of decision making.

Service delivery. Review how you deliver your services. While it is true that all centers are required to offer the same core services, there is a great deal of latitude for the local center to develop its service delivery model to match the needs of its community. Independent Living Skills are taught many different ways across the country — at home, at the center, or in a public place like a home economics classroom in a high school or college. Some are group classes at the center, some are on-line courses and others are one-to-one. Some emphasize skills for mobility, others for financial security, and other for shopping, cooking, cleaning and other skills needed to address those skills the individual finds most pressing at the moment.  Almost always, as the consumer accesses the community, advocacy issues emerge related to equal access. The best Centers adjust both the topics and the teaching method to meet the individual needs of the consumer in that moment — which requires some agility.

Consumer Satisfaction. To know whether your services have the agility that your consumers need, you need to find out if they are satisfied. All centers are required to measure satisfaction, but are you asking the right questions? For example, how quickly did the center respond to the consumer’s first inquiry? We live in a 24/7 world. Did your response meet the expectations of the consumer?

Responsiveness. Examine your internal processes for getting a new person started with their own plan for Independent Living. How many steps does it take? How much time? You need to find the right balance between an “intake” process that allows you to understand what the person wants and needs, and a bureaucratic process  that has too many steps. Think about how you can meet our funder’s requirements and still keep things moving. (Our regulations require that you determine eligibility – that the person says they have a significant disability, and that you inform them of some specific things like rights, registering to vote, and the Client Assistance Program, for example.) Using a prepared packet and a checklist might assist you with meeting the requirements quickly so you can move on to understanding their Independent Living goals.

Empowering, not controlling. The individual sets their own goals and does most of the work to achieve them. The staff role is to provide peer support, to assist the person in knowing their choices, and to provide them with community resources and connections that might further their Independent Living. If the CIL has a rigid, controlling process for “intake”, you will be less agile in the delivery of needed supports and core services. You want a process that can move with the person through their journey, not attempt to take them where you think they ought to go.

From Service Providers to Community. I have noticed a disturbing trend among some centers, a trend to identify more as service providers rather than as Independent Living. The IL philosophy is a movement by and for people with disabilities. Services are provided from within that framework of consumer control, peer support, equal access, and self-determination. If service models come first, we have lost our way. If we are to be agile in the 21st century we need to reclaim our place as a community of people with disabilities.

Here are some key phrases from the Responsive Organization’s manifesto for you to think about:

  • … people who want a better world for themselves and their communities are looking to new ambitious organizations to shape our collective future.
  • Responsive Organizations are built to learn and respond rapidly through the open flow of information; encouraging experimentation and learning on rapid cycles; and organizing as a network of employees, customers, and partners motivated by shared purpose.
  • A clear and visionary purpose brings together stunning talent, committed shareholders, partners, and communities.
  • Because we can’t predict the future, time and resources devoted to planning are a less valuable investment than embracing agile methods that encourage experimentation and fuel rapid learning.

Building this new kind of organization should come naturally to Centers and SILCs because of our commitment to consumer control. Take a deep look at your organization — have you drifted from that principle? Evaluate your Center or SILC and the ways in which you can remove bureaucracy and be agile in responding to consumers.

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Business Agility – how to approach your operations in a flexible, responsive manner.

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