The Agile Approach to Purposeful Business
We were created with a sense of purpose in mind. Philosophers of antiquity posited, and modern scientists have proven, that people who strive for purpose in their life have better mental health, resilience, and motivation. They are also more physically fit and have a longer lifespan than the average person. They have a greater impact on their families, friends, and the greater community.
Businesses have the power to either establish or break a meaningful existence. There were influential economists who promised for decades that if firms maximised profit, an invisible hand would generate greater social benefit. However, as a result of the company’s overwhelming concentration on shareholder value, other stakeholders are losing out. For example, record numbers of people are resigning from their jobs and striking to show their rising belief that life is too short for dismal labour. Inequities in society and environmental harm are becoming more of a concern. The issue is rapidly deteriorating because the system is out of whack.
Executives are aware of these difficulties. Fortune magazine recently polled Fortune 500 CEOs and found that only 7% of them believed that their companies should “primarily focus on producing profits and not be diverted by social aims.” Changing a profit-maximising system to a purpose-driven system is difficult for CEOs because of the risk to their companies’ and their own careers.
Agile methods can be used to turn fuzzy conversations about the company’s mission into tangible actions and results. Here are four ideas to get you started.
Create a Miniature World of Your Dreams.
Agile’s “do-it-yourself” mindset might help you transform your own work group into the kind of organisation you desire rather than waiting for it to happen. It’s the same process you’d use to create any other new product or service:
- Involve specialists from beyond your silo in a multidisciplinary team.
- Develop genuine empathy for users by exploring their aims and challenges.
- Investigate the current setup to see what’s causing the problems.
- Design a better system
- Describe changes that might improve the system.
- Prioritise and sequence them.
- Evaluate the possibility of enhancing the product.
- Adapt to unforeseen consequences and side effects.
- Scale up innovations that improve people’s lives at a reasonable cost.
Regardless of how dysfunctional a company’s culture may be, there will always be parts of the organisation where people are happy, productive, and engaged. They often use agile methods and do their work with a stronger sense of purpose, mutual respect, empathy, independence, and a desire to learn and grow.
Make a “How Could We Test That?” chart. Culture
A well-designed business system can’t be compared to a traditional timepiece like a pocket watch. You cannot replace one faulty part; the focus must be figuring out how each piece of the puzzle is interconnected. Once that’s achieved, managers can replace the poor performing approaches with best practises from successful organisations to create a purposeful new business.
Purposeful businesses are more like complex biological ecosystems with many unknown elements that behave differently in various combinations and conditions. This makes the ecosystem unpredictable. A big reason why agile practitioners insist on testing things in their own contexts with their own experiments is that good intentions sometimes have unforeseen consequences.
Maintaining a stable ecosystem in a constantly changing environment is the key to long-term success. It’s a wise strategy to deploy resources — people and time as well as technology and money — to purposeful causes that aim to provide long-term benefits for a wide range of stakeholders. You can choose those causes using five criteria.
- Is this project aligned with your long-term goals?
- Is it beneficial to the people who have the greatest impact on your company’s success?
- Will your main stakeholders — especially employees and customers — actively support this initiative?
- Is it cost-effective?
- In order to verify specific theories and reduce any negative side effects, may the investment be staged?
- Is it more likely that delaying the start of the project by a year will make it less valuable or more expensive?
Perform appropriate actions for appropriate parties.
Profit-maximising managers set high financial targets, make plans to accomplish them, and then calculate ways to get employees and consumers to adhere to them. With Agile, the emphasis is shifted from making a profit to first generating value for the stakeholders. Is there a way for us to make more money without sacrificing customer or staff satisfaction? The main question to consider is “how can we enrich the lives of customers and employees?”
Put collaboration ahead of competition.
The ability to have fulfilling personal and professional connections is one of the most defining characteristics of the human species. There are several benefits to having excellent working relationships, such as a greater sense of belonging to the company, a greater focus on the client, and a greater desire to work hard. For over a century, managers have focused on growing profits by enhancing the performance of individual employees rather than on strengthening teams and processes.
The success of agile methods is largely due to their emphasis on teamwork rather than individual accomplishment. Research from the Standish Group, which has researched the effectiveness of IT projects since 1994, demonstrates that agile teams improve software innovation by more than 60 percent, on average, and by 100 percent when the invention is large and complicated. According to the State of Agile Report by Digital.ai, a startup that focuses on digital transformations, two-thirds of agile teams from a wide range of business functions report better cross-functional alignment and 60% report higher team morale.
Diverse groups of agile teams use their differences to their advantage, resulting in stronger teams with fewer defects than those found in traditional organisations. Collaboration with financial experts, lawyers, environmental activists, and people whose worldviews are different from your own can be a great way to boost creativity and morale.
Faster is better when it comes to firms adopting a purposeful approach and beginning to create more value for society. The use of agile methodologies can be beneficial.