Virtualizing and outsourcing infrastructure – 10: going lean but not too lean
Reconciling lean and agile with development for growth into new opportunity: This is my tenth installment in a series on developing a leaner and more agile business model and system of operational processes (see Business Strategy and Operations, postings 127-129, 132, 135, 138, 141, 144 and 147.) So far I have been developing a case for going lean and agile, and I have at least briefly touched upon a number of the factors that have to be taken into account in doing so. Here, I acknowledge that lean and agile per se, as important as they are in keeping a business in focus, should only be one half of a more comprehensive approach.
• At the same time a business or organization needs to be disciplined, in developing and maintaining resources and infrastructure that support core capabilities and strategic plans and goals,
• It is also necessary to maintain and cultivate a flexibility and a level of reserve that can help it to both identify and move into new opportunity.
It would be difficult to argue the case that the businesses that Christensen cited from his study of the semiconductor industry were always effectively lean and agile, or even striving to develop in that direction. But it is clear that the ones that did not successfully transition into next generation technologies failed to do so because they did not maintain a flexible capability to innovate. See:
• Christensen, C.M. (1997, 2000) The Innovator’s Dilemma. Harper Business.
I will add that investing resources and attention in the wrong directions and failing to stay focused on core capabilities and core objectives probably did more to limit their capacity to innovate than any other single factor. This robbed them of the capacity to manage the transition periods where a new and emerging technology stage may not be cost-effective in the marketplace yet, but when investment in it would be needed to build for a sustainable future.
• Lean and agile simply for the sake of lean and agile, and with no vision of change is a dead end – a path towards obsolescence.
• Effective lean and agile needs to be tempered with a vision of growth and innovation.
• And lean and agile should in fact be envisioned and developed as an enabler, and both for developing and maintaining competitiveness in the here and now and in facilitating competitiveness in future markets too.
This means developing for the future has to be cultivated as a core competency and a core business model requirement – and a key resource that lean and agile would be designed to protect and promote.
This leads directly to a crucially important point, and one that is particularly important for rapidly advancing industries and marketplaces.
• Effective lean and agile are not entirely about the here and now of meeting marketplace goals in this quarter, and with the next quarter viewed as long-term. Short term requirements and maintenance of market share and liquidity have to be core considerations, but longer term competitiveness and capacity to move into new opportunity as the market evolves are crucial too.
“Not too lean” simply begins with avoiding single points of failure in the here and now (see Part 9 of this series for a discussion of these issues.)
If I were focusing in my blog on a fully mature industry that was not facing the challenge of innovation, and either from within, or from the outside from new blue ocean strategy, this posting would not be needed. Much of my blog is about information technology and its application to business and community settings, so this is one of the more important topics I have turned to. There, the only constant is change, so lean and agile have to be developed with capacity to change, and rapidly as a primary goal.
I am sure to follow up on this posting, and this series and with a shift towards the issues of change and innovation. In that context, I cite a foundation for further discussion that I have been developing with my Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time. See also my series on expanding your business with a dual strategic focus, as included in Business Strategy and Operations, postings 23-25.