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Leading Agility and Resilience across People, Process, and Technology

By Neysha Arcelay, Kelly Fetick and John Miller

We just survived a paradigm shifting event causing us to reevaluate the way we collaborate, communicate, and do business. How can we as leaders enable our People, Processes and Technologies to become agile and resilient?

Prior to COVID-19, crisis concerns were primarily focused on data center component failures, facility outages, fiber circuit cuts, protecting networks, servers, data; basically, keeping the lights on. Plans were centered around technology, not people or process. 

The coronavirus pandemic forced millions of employees to work from home with little warning. We should take a moment to pause and acknowledge that with little warning, we came together across people, process and technology to effectively standup communications and a virtual workforce overnight. Resilience, our ability to withstand adversity and quickly bounce back, is now one of the most important traits of an organization. Leaders who embrace the decisions made during the crisis will pave the way to greater innovation and productivity, and better position themselves for agility and resilience in the long-term.  

If you are wondering how to bring this to life, we suggest you start by going back to basics. What is the “why” behind your business. What is your value-add? What do you uniquely provide to your customers? These elements should permeate your company’s mission and be the essence of your culture. From that standpoint you can determine the right processes and the best technology to enable and empower your people to communicate and collaborate effectively. Our mindset needs to be, “We are going to make our new digital workplace thrive, and we’re going to do it in a human way.”

Looking Forward:

Organizational leaders need to look at building agility and resilience into strategic and operating plans and processes.  The ability to react quickly to situations will become part of the fabric of the company.  “That is the way we’ve always done it” must be purged from our vocabulary and instead challenge the status quo, empower your teams to promote change, and drive innovation.  We need to adapt to new situations and be able to retool to provide services we never thought we would provide.  Creative thinking and the willingness to adapt and embrace change at all levels of the organization will expedite your journey to the top of the market.

We recognize that the goals of agility and resilience are lofty and hard to measure, but we can focus on continuous improvement and increasing levels of resilience. The COVID-19 challenge created extraordinary barriers to business as usual. Being forced to do more with less, organizations will uncover simpler, faster and more cost-effective ways to operate. Leaders now have a better sense of what can, and cannot, be done outside of traditional processes and appreciate the speed with which they can move. It has spun new ways of thinking, fresh perspective on problems and new (and often better!) approaches.  In short, the coronavirus is forcing both the pace and scale of workplace innovation.

Businesses need strong leadership to navigate in such a transitional time, and organizational change efforts should not be overlooked. Company cultures that embrace agility and execute effective change management principles will mitigate risk and ensure business continuity in the future. As the world changes, we will see a shift in the core values and strengths that define the winners, and we can expect a shift in management culture with a new focus on empathy and understanding.  When people feel safe and empowered, high levels of engagement and positive results will follow. 

Taking into consideration your current processes, now is the time to revisit the full journey of the product/service you deliver, and the supporting resources that make that journey possible. Evaluate cross-collaboration touch points and methods that are used to deliver the outcomes, while challenging existing contingencies, supporting methods, and overall perceived capabilities. It is also important to consider the value to the customer (what would the customer pay for?) when re-evaluating current decision-making points and unnecessary redundancies that add complexity and make your process inefficient.

From a technology perspective, we need stronger contingency plans and more effective what-if scenarios. We cannot fool ourselves into thinking that we are smart enough to plan for every threat, but we can absolutely leverage what we have learned in this process.

Agile-Resilient Organizations focus on the “WHY” – Planning on the “how” and the “what” are secondary to why they do what they do.  Why we do what we do does not change under pressure. Our Why is not compromised when paradigms shift, even drastically.  If we provide the leadership to embrace our “WHY,” and model that to the organization, then the “How” and the “What” can quickly change to adapt.

Agile-Resilient Organizations focus on Continuous Improvement – Leadership built on resilience and agility continually strives for the perfection we can never reach, regardless of external circumstances.  Performance reviews no longer dwell on attendance, technical skills, and teamwork. The new agile, resilient organizations evaluate and reward innovation, adaptability, collaboration, and synergy.  They value the ability to thrive in a changing environment, to be proponents of change, not just to peacefully coexist in inefficient environments.

Agile-Resilient Organizations make decisions integrating People, Processes, and Technology – Leadership can no longer push a finite agenda focusing on the bottom line, short term financial goals, and “Planned” strategic growth.  The new paradigm is to proactively LEAD people to be resilient and involved, processes to be structured enough to create efficient operating units but agile enough to adapt in a heartbeat (maybe literally), and technology to be location and platform agnostic. 

Agile-Resilient Organizations focus on Culture – Leaders no longer have culture as an afterthought. In the tech world especially, competitive advantage is driven by hiring and retaining top talent while enabling employee engagement and productivity. Culture is now more important than ever. Moving forward, culture management must become part of every strategic leadership initiative.

A Few Recommendations:

  • Focus on culture: Culture and innovation lie at the heart of the best organizations, and helps leaders authentically transform the right way. Companies that allow purpose to guide their decisions have a sharper sense for how to evolve and can adapt more quickly. Focusing on your company’s purpose and allowing its values to guide you will help you make the right decisions for a resilient and sustainable future. 
  • Include your immediate team in this exercise: Want to break silos?  Then begin modeling the behaviors that you expect.  Make your team part of this exercise, add their ideas, and address their concerns.  This will not only make them feel part of the solution but will allow them to take ownership of the final output, which improves adoption. 
  • Include key strategic suppliers: If you process depends on strategic supplier(s) delivering key elements for your process, make sure that you involve those suppliers in the specific steps that concern them within your process. You want to make sure that the expectations you are placing on those suppliers are attainable, as well as obtain any innovative element that your key supplier can contribute to your optimized process.
  • Communicate your progress early and often: Transparency, honesty and vulnerability are the key elements to develop trust in the organization.

The key success driver is Leadership!  Those at the top of the organization must learn from these experiences. We have never seen a global pandemic before in our lifetimes. We had situations hit that caused similar effects on a micro-level. There used to be movie rental stores on every street corner.  Now they are gone as we all stream our entertainment content. Most bookstores are closed as we download digital books to our tablets or order hard copy books for delivery tomorrow. We get our news, coupons, weather, sports, shopping and staggering amount of social opinions from the Internet. The companies that survived did so because their leadership build agility and resilience into their people, business processes and technology offerings.  

Agility and Resilience across People, Process, and Technology will strengthen your organization, build credibility, raise your reputation in the market, and create an engaged culture that can thrive in any “new normal.”

Listen to Kelly, Neysha and John talk about this in more detail as part of the Summer of 50 PGH TEch Stories here.

Submitted by:   

Kelly Fetick, Founder and CEO – Landis Consulting Group

Landis Consulting Group is a women-owned, specialized technology staffing and recruitment firm serving the Pittsburgh area. It provides high-tech contract, contract-to-hire, and placement services, ranging from entry to executive level across a full spectrum of technologies. 

Neysha Arcelay, Founder and CEO – Precixa, Inc.

Precixa is a team of strategic advisors helping leaders deliver transformational strategies, with specialties that include optimizing business strategy, improving organizational structure, and streamlining day-to-day operations, through human-centered solutions that immediately and sustainably impact the bottom line.

John Miller, Founder and CIO - Real-CIO Consulting

Real-CIO Consulting is a Professional Services organization founded to provide strategic Interim and Virtual CIO Consulting Services to companies that are between IT Leaders or cannot justify a full time CIO.  It provides leadership coaching and mentoring services to those looking to advance in their careers.  Most importantly, it is founded to “Pay IT Forward”.