What’s Holding Managers Back from More Agile?

Yeah don’t hold back

Trust your gut reaction

Be bold, be bold baby

If you don’t take chances

You won’t make advances

– The Rolling Stones, Hold Back.

As economies around the world slowly emerge from the devastating effects of the pandemic, most, if not all businesses are reflecting on their pre-COVID business models and business goals to forge a new way forward.

Here is a sample of what I’ve noticed with businesses adapting their business models during the pandemic. Some are obvious pivots. Others are more subliminal or obscure.

  • Safety and continuous sanitization have become job #1 in all direct customer-facing businesses. Barbers and hairdressers are even sanitizing the pens they provide for customers to sign-in for contact tracing purposes.
  • The pizza business boomed during the pandemic. It was also one of the earliest businesses to adapt with their ‘contactless’ delivery.
  • Training and education have been virtually all online during the pandemic. With kids heading back or already back at school, it looks like delivery of education will continue to adapt as jurisdictions trial and error different approaches.
  • Online grocery shopping is growing in popularity with previous bricks-and-mortar only stores now entering the online domain as well. At least for non-perishables. My wife who’s an avid gardener will not let anyone else pick her plants never mind her fruits and vegetables.
  • Sports and entertainment events have had to adapt to no fans in the stands. No more over-priced concession stands which is not a bad thing, but I do miss those foot-long hot dogs at the ballpark!
  • Restaurants have had to implement social distancing protocols including digital menus and creation of outdoor patio spaces. What’s going to happen when outdoor patio season ends?
  • The benefit of paid gym memberships in the past was access to lots of new and advanced fitness equipment at any time for as long as desired. Most of us are struggling to shed our COVID-15. Now, with some gyms requiring reservations and limiting access to only one piece of equipment per timed visit, how will that impact gym memberships.
  • Real estate. What will happen when the long-term commercial leases expire and businesses all want less or no formal office space? We’re already seeing a shift in residential real estate with people realizing they don’t need to reside in big city centres just to be closer to the office.
  • One of my favourite examples is an entrepreneurial person who pivoted from building backyard storage sheds to fully connected backyard office sheds including heating and bathroom facilities! That’s one way to work from home without being in the home with the rest of the family.

Highlights from KPMG’s 2020 Annual CEO Outlook survey found that,

80% (of respondents) are reevaluating their corporate purpose, their reason for being.

It goes on to say that,

Leaders are concerned about the people who do the work, where they do the work, what tools they use to do the work, and why they do the work.

What wasn’t apparent to me from the highlights was whether there were any concerns on “how” the people worked.

Could this be an indicator that leaders have transcended focusing on how the work gets done (e.g. using Agile) to focusing on the business outcomes?

This would be welcome news! However, I’m not so sure if that’s the case. Especially, in the light of the 100% remote nature of work and relationships that we’ve all become accustomed to this year. “How” we’re working has changed dramatically from pre-COVID times. And it’s more than just about the tools.

I’ve always been curious as to how managers perceived Agile ways of working. I’ve sought out their perspective whenever I’ve had a chance. So, I polled managers in my network over the last 3 months on what was holding them back from embracing or further embracing Agile ways of working. Here’s a summary of what they had to say.

Is there a particular question that resonates with you?

What’s holding you back?


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