How Agile Is Your Business?

Today marks the start of something that would have been unheard of two or so years ago – online BNI (Business Networking International) meetings in the UK.

In the face of the growing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, its effect on people, communities, and our economy, and the sheer scale of the pressures created, business, as usual, is no longer an option.

So, this week, we begin chapter meetings using BNIONLINE, following a global decision on 14th March to cease meeting face-to-face for all of BNI activities, except our BNI University online learning.

What has that meant?

In just a few days, our region—BNI Durham and Teesside—have geared up to deliver "business not as usual." Incredible support from our co-executive directors, our regional team of director consultants, of which I am one, and our members has enabled a significant shift in how we do business, temporarily, for the foreseeable future. We will return to face-to-face networking once the health crisis dissipates, but who knows how long that might be?

What does the future hold?

For many, there is trepidation about how it will work. There will be a massive reliance on using available technologies. Again, for many members, that is not something with which they are particularly familiar. We are, after all, pre-eminently a face-to-face networking and business referral body. People buy from others they know, like, and trust. The best way to do that is to meet them face-to-face and to get to know them well.

Our regional response has been to provide both access to the technology and the opportunity to experiment. We have given close personal telephone and online support to individuals and groups, and we have provided information and updates.

In the coming week, for many of our members, fresh challenges will emerge as they learn and adapt. The most resilient will take this in stride. Others will find a wealth of support, encouragement, and help. Not all will like the way it is now. However, it is likely to be the future for many weeks.

What has been most telling?

We all know the incredible impact of the virus in a few short months on businesses and economies worldwide. It is far-reaching and, for many, will have untold consequences. Questions abound, many without anything like an understandable answer. How we did what we did may no longer be the way we do stuff in the future. Many businesses will find new operating models that significantly enhance their competitiveness; others will collapse and disappear. The signs are already there in the British economy of both ends of that spectrum.

What has been most telling for me in response to the business side of this crisis has been our ability within BNI to offer reassurance to fellow members, especially given the accelerating speed of change.

In a few short days, we have enabled our members to maintain and strengthen business relationships, remain competitively positioned, continue to network, continue to invite visitors to see the benefits of our approach, and continue to gather and pass referrals to each other.

We have provided reassurance, in a world gone crazy, that when "normality" returns—as it inevitably will, in one form or another—they will have:

  • Seen change as an opportunity;
  • Managed the acceleration of change;
  • Better change capacities at an individual, team, and organisational level; and
  • Improved their change management skills and competencies.

What does that say about business agility?

Fundamentally, an agile business can move quickly, decisively, and effectively in anticipating, initiating, and taking advantage of change.

It does that by:

  • Understanding central priorities and the importance of core values;
  • A sustained commitment to communications that start at the top;
  • Acquiring and filtering pertinent information from and to key constituents;
  • Testing assumptions and frequently measuring results;
  • Enabling shared decision-making; and
  • Adapting rapidly to changing circumstances.

Throughout the past ten days, our regional BNI response has been that and more.

I believe we will all learn, and I also think that businesses globally will need to do the same! I will give feedback on that learning over the next few weeks in my next blog post here on Lead Change Group.

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