Is 2021 the year of agility?

by Claudia Smith. There is no doubt that business agility is going to be critical for business recovery and growth.

by Claudia Smith. Agility has always been a focus for business and while no one can predict what 2021 will hold, there is no doubt that business agility is a going to be critical. In fact, to my mind the only way businesses will be able to recover, and grow, will be determined by their ability to respond to change – and respond quickly. 2020 has given us all a ring-side seat to this reality – it is not survival of the fittest, but rather survival of the most agile and adaptable. COVID changed everything and the repercussions will long be felt in 2021.

While a strong rebound is expected when the pandemic finally wanes, global markets are still affected by immense volatility but more than that, so is business. Health and hygiene protocols have forever changed, and businesses have, and will continue to, scrutinise their processes. The speed of digital transformation has accelerated and the shift in attitude towards traditional work models continues to alter – with hybrid models coming to the fore and adapting to employees’ requirements. There is now also a move towards delayed gratification, a rise in cancel culture and a continuous change in consumer behaviour that is becoming a catalyst in forcing companies to adapt. As such, being able to adopt agile responses to constant disruption, both internally and externally, is going to be non-negotiable.

Part of being agile, means focusing relentlessly on improvement – whether this is around internal processes and adaptive funding models, or the diversification of products/solutions. It could be changing the path to market or even customer service channels. Essentially it means being smart and aligning to value and opportunity streams. While on the surface, adaptation may seem to be about other people, in actual fact, it’s a self-interested act that gives others what they need to buy into your ideas or brand. However, when you start adapting to others, you also begin to break down your own barriers – opening yourself up more to new ways of doing things. And this, can be a win-win for all parties. However, what’s important is to do so, authentically.


While we have seen lots of ‘talk’ around how ‘brands must humanise’ and, yes, I agree. I do however think we shouldn’t try over complicate what that means. Marketing taglines (or the back story to these tag lines) have a way of over complicating things, when in fact it can be very simple. People connect with people and if businesses show up, and place customers at the heart of their brand narrative (with a solid understanding of why they do things and for whom) and with the perspective that they aren’t perfect, then adapting authentically should be easy. However, it is the perspective that so important.

Finding time to reflect to see the bigger picture is essential – far too many brands merely just jump on new marketing terms/trends or coin phrases of the month rather than internalising these first. Keeping this perspective helps place changing priorities, and environments, and gives these a clearer viewpoint. This bigger picture not only allows businesses to look ‘down the line’ to identify how industries are evolving, or what structural changes are taking place, but also understand the forces that are shaping this change. This then allows businesses to study what resources are needed and what tactical assets or movements may be required. And of course, this means a business can adapt and build better resilience.

It’s human nature to fear the unknown. To fear change. However, the art to being open to change, and being adaptable, is to connect and understand the opportunity rather than hide from the risk. May 2021 be the year of agility.


Claudia Smith has an impressive consulting career and her fair share of industry stories to tell. And she does exactly that – tell brand stories, backed by strategy and high-level consulting – all focussed on impact. She believes in the power of the African continent, the value of insight and experience and the importance of relationships on the continent and beyond its borders. She thrives on challenge and as a Business Director at communications agency, Orange Ink, her responsibilities include strategic business development for the agency and its client portfolio.


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