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As the “New Normal” business landscape descends on Australia, post the COVID-19 global pandemic, businesses around our country are quickly learning how crucial agile working is when it comes to running effective crisis management, retaining company culture and building long term remote-working scenarios.

Just a few weeks ago, hardly anybody in Australia could predict the impact that COVID-19 would have on our domestic and international business community. At the time of writing, we’re sitting in a series of staged lock-downs at various levels across the country – creating a massive impact on the global economy, wreaking widespread disruption including personal and professional uncertainty.


"Businesses can mitigate their risks with agile methodologies and a firm hand on driving a great company culture."


There is an eerie significance to the old adage ‘When China sneezes, the world catches a cold’. This is particularly relevant to Australia, with China being one of our major import and export partners. What impact will this have on our national bottom line and private sector? We’ll soon see. However, businesses can mitigate their risks with agile methodologies and a firm hand on driving a great company culture. Let me explain.

COVID-19 and other recent disasters such as the Australian bushfires are reminders of the importance of a culture of agility in business and the workplace, having gained popularity across Australia because it allows companies to scale, delegate decision making and move at speed amidst an ever-changing market. The changes may be within the digital sphere, but the dynamism enabled by technology more and more encroaches on all facets of business.


"COVID-19 and other recent disasters such as the Australian bushfires are reminders of the importance of a culture of agility in business and the workplace."


Our recent fast-paced “digital transformation” period has seen the realisation by Australian enterprises the need for lasting organisational agility. Established business models have been turned upside down by an intensely connected, ferociously competitive global economy driven by new technology and rapid change management.

During a pandemic, the need for an agile culture is more prevalent than ever. Successfully creating an agile culture requires a convergence of these traits from top to bottom:

Intense empathy for customers: leaders and employees are best to focus on listening, understanding and anticipating customer needs. This is the time to double down on your customer-service efforts and communicate the extra focus back to your customers who are facing the same uncertainties.

A forum to generate ideas: business leaders need to break down silos and reduce command and control management styles. Diverse viewpoints – delivered with openness, candour and empowerment open the business to navigating the pandemic with innovation and inclusion.

A fast, consistent ability to execute: quick decision making, delegations of authorities and speedy execution to extract value as fast as possible and allow the business to pivot quickly. This means adoption of a similar digital-native mindset of ‘80% right/100% fast’ that allows employees to start and enable work with room for adjustments, redirection or rework. You may recognise these traits as the very opposite of some current legacy models.

Ability to change: everyone in the business must be prepared to leave old ways of doing things behind and focus on the immediate end goal. Management should be communicating the end-goals of a selected period, and work in collaboration with the team to get there. The whole business must be educated on why becoming more agile matters; and that staff feel empowered to support the change.

Advance plans should be made that allow the company’s continuing focus to deliver on its client commitments and enable business continuity. Having contingency arrangements in place that enable staff to work from home, including people, process and technology is crucial. Doing so involves navigating a host of complexities, which require a lot of collaboration across departments – exemplified via an agile business culture with the key traits as listed above.

Being agile is an invaluable quality. And, because we’ve been forced into rapid change that may be around for 6 to 18 months longer, it cannot be an afterthought or as a “nice to have” anymore. All functions have to be ready to ‘live agile’ and should consider the implications of this as they review how to make their operating model fit for the future.


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