STARTUP

A Guide to Making Your Startup in Asia More Agile in the Early Stages

How to Build an Agile Startup That’s Able to Respond

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BY Larry Alton - 30 Sep 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

In the early stages of building a startup and growing a business, it's easy to feel as if some of the decisions you're making are small and inconsequential. And while some of them will be forgotten down the road, many of the choices you make have a rather significant impact on the trajectory of your business.

When it comes to decisions you make regarding issues like management, structure, innovation, and scalability, poor choices can set you back and prevent your business from being able to move forward when the timing is right. The right decisions, on the other hand, give your startup the chance to be prepared for whatever comes your way.

3 Tips for Making Your Startup More Agile

By one definition, "An agile business is an organization that can respond quickly and effectively to opportunities and threats found in its internal and external environments (be they commercial, legal, technological, social, moral or political)."

In most cases, the identifying characteristics of an agile company include traits like: fast moving, rapid response, flexibility, leader in change, and in-touch with customer needs.

Prioritizing agility in your business isn't easy or effortless. It requires that you make some key decisions about who your company is at its core - decisions that aren't quick, easy, or comfortable. But as any successful entrepreneur or founder will tell you when looking back at the early stages of their business, it's a lot easier to experience sustainable success if you put agile building blocks in play.

With all of that being said, let's check out a few of the top tips for making your startup more agile:

1. Kill the Hierarchies

It's virtually impossible to be an agile company if you have a tall organizational structure. The taller your structure is, the more hierarchies exist and the longer the chain of command. Every decision has to be filtered through multiple individuals and groups. The result is fewer changes and slower decision making.

If you want an agile business, you must kill the hierarchies and rely on a flat organizational structure where there's an open flow of information and communication, as well as a certain amount of autonomy for different groups to make decisions.

2. Be Predictive, Not Responsive

A lot of entrepreneurs are under the impression that agility is based on the ability to quickly respond to situations and factors as they unfold. And while this is true, to a degree, today's most agile businesses take a more predictive approach.

Take SEO as an example. The average company tries a new optimization technique, waits 60-90 days to track the results and check the rankings, and then tweaks and adjusts according to the results.

This responsive approach often works, but it's slow and inefficient. Predictive companies - i.e. those that are agile - have systems in place that allow them to deploy optimizations, wait a couple of hours to test the results, and then continue optimizing in order to get even better results. Notice the difference?

3. Use the Build-Measure-Learn Cycle

Are you familiar with the Build-Measure-Learn cycle? It's a feedback loop that simplifies the process of uncovering knowledge and transforming products and/or business operations quicker and more efficiently. As the name indicates, there are three phases. The goal is to build a minimum viable product (MVP), measure the results, and learn from the results in order to figure out if you should persevere or pivot.

You don't have to use this exact model, but it's a pretty good one. The important takeaway is this: Agile startups have an efficient plan in place for getting from Point A to Point B without wasting resources. And when they find themselves at Point B, they're nimble enough to move based on the data-driven conclusions they've reached.

Is Your Startup in the Right Position to be Successful?

There are thousands of different paths to success, but agility is something your startup would be wise to prioritize from the very beginning. The nimbler you are, the easier you'll find it to pivot, shift, and scale when the timing is right.

If your business is already established, it's not too late. It's more challenging to transition when you're already set in your ways, but plenty of businesses adopt a more agile approach after learning about some of the benefits and opportunities. Give it some careful consideration and determine whether you need to instigate movement in this direction.