The essential EMBA student guide to nimble business

April 03, 2018

Businesses great and small aspire to be nimble enough to adapt to new challenges and opportunities. Here's how EMBA students can pull this off.

A mobile phone held by one male person, and another male pointing with a pen at a laptop screen

When the fortunes of entire industries seem like they could turn on a dime, ensuring that businesses are able to adapt to new challenges and take advantage of new opportunities seems not just like a good idea, but essential. This is easier said than done, however, particularly as businesses scale up and become more unwieldy as a result.

The concept of running a "nimble" business has arisen in an effort to address this challenge, with businesses of all sizes making an effort to engineer themselves for quicker action and reaction speeds. Wondering where they begin? Here's our essential guide to nimble business.

Adopting minimalism wherever possible can facilitate nimble business

Despite knowing better, too many business leaders still today rely on activities that are not conducive to efficiency. Lengthy meetings, overlong presentations, and an ongoing practice of analyzing too much data are all drains on time and energy that leave fewer resources left for teams to accomplish their goals.

Eliminating this bloat by paring time-consuming activities down to the absolute essentials can be an important step toward achieving a more nimble organization. This means keeping meetings and presentations only as long as is necessary to communicate the principle ideas, being deliberate and focused in the number and metrics tracked, and avoiding excess as much as possible.

It's quite the exercise in discipline, and might require that established businesses overhaul their activities rather dramatically. Gaining advanced skills in developing action plans, personnel management, and other important areas of leadership through an EMBA program, though, can help you usher in this greater level of efficiency for organizations of any size.

A presentation is held by a young man in front of 6 business man listening to him
Short, efficient meetings and presentations help nimble businesses reduce wasted time

Distribute authority more broadly to speed up project implementation

The more hierarchical levels a decision needs to go through before implementation, the slower it will be to get off the ground. Learning to delegate responsibility and authority appropriately across the different levels of a company is a good way to avoid stagnation with less important decisions and allow a better flow toward adoption of new ideas.

There is no single style of hierarchy and distributed authority that works best for all businesses, so "nimble" can mean a number of things in this context. Some organizations might thrive with a relatively flat structure, while others might prefer to employ a more typical top-down structure with a "Don't come to me unless it's essential" policy.

For additional effectiveness, apply data collection and analysis skills developed in EMBA training to track the effectiveness of decision-makers at all levels of the organization. This way, you can help ensure that distributed authority does not dilute results achieved by your organization.

Remember that investment is not an eternal obligation

The sunk cost fallacy is the bane of innumerable businesses around the world. In essence, it is the belief that there is a point of investment at which an individual or business has gone too far to turn back on a project, product, new hire, or some other investment of funds. Victims of this type of fallacious thinking may continue to invest more and more into trying to salvage a given situation, ballooning costs for what often turns out to be a substandard result.

Nimble businesses, on the other hand, are not afraid to cut losses when it becomes apparent that a given direction is doomed to failure. With careful consideration, they'll halt projects, terminate employees, and otherwise trim away any expensive failures before they become a greater drain on resources. It takes a keen understanding of a business's finances and the conviction to consistently make the hard choice to operate a business in this way – a rare combination generally, but one sure to be common among the driven leaders attending top business schools.

An office with young people of various ethnics working on laptops
Making the tough choice to scrap failing projects can keep businesses nimble

Do you want to develop the skills needed for nimble business?

Complete your Executive Master of Business Administration at WU Executive Academy!

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