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Agility: Your Business's Antidote to Chaos

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Agility: Your Business's Antidote to Chaos

Volatile market conditions are now the norm in the home building industry. Taking an agile approach can distinguish your business and set you up for success 

By Matt Collins April 15, 2023
Man floating with umbrella shows agility in avoiding business chaos
Builders that use processes and systems with agility at their core can better adapt to whatever the future brings. | Image: Nuthawut / stock.adobe.com
This article first appeared in the March/April 2023 issue of Pro Builder.

Home builders have two choices when they look into the future and the potential for business success. Their first choice is to accurately predict the future and set themselves up to leverage it. Choice number two is to avoid making predictions and set themselves up to leverage whatever comes—what we call “agility.” 

In my experience as a senior leader working with large regional home builders, most processes and systems used by builders only concentrate on efficiency—an approach that relies heavily on accurate predictions of future market conditions. 

But one thing we’ve learned over the last couple of years is that volatility and a lack of predictability are now the norm in business. That’s why we advise builders to use processes and systems with agility at the center so they can adapt to whatever the future brings. 

Adopting an Agile Mindset for Your Business

The strategic imperative for home builders today is to be decisive about how they intend to adapt to a volatile and turbulent environment. Agility provides the framework for those seeking to proactively prepare their teams to renew themselves and change quickly. And it’s not just an ability, it’s a mindset.

Agility is a mindset in the same way Dr. W. Edwards Deming preached efficiency for manufacturing after World War II; it keeps your organization focused on a specific goal and ensures the team is aware of every required decision point along the journey. 


Consider agility in terms of its antonym: fragility. A fragile company cracks under pressure, while an agile company adapts and becomes stronger. 

Before you can determine whether you’re set up to create an “agile” mindset in and for your business, you need to decide why doing so matters to your business, from sales to production, and why it matters to the people who work with you and for you.

Business Agility Is Not a Quick Fix

Nearly a decade ago, Gartner business consultants Peter Sondergaard and Jorge Lopez wrote a series for The Wall Street Journal about what was driving digital business at the time. Agility, they said, was imperative, but they warned against seeing it as just a technological matter or expecting software to provide the silver bullet that would boost a company’s prosperity. In short, they warned against expecting agility to be a quick fix. 

Today we know their interpretation—and warning—to be true. There’s no doubt technology helps home builders, but real prosperity comes from having a sense of direction, stable objectives, and an agile mindset. 

The Value of Agility for Your Business

The value of agility is evergreen. It is a capability that can be useful in any economy and under any circumstances. By thinking about agility in terms of your sales, operations, and production, you’re bringing focus to how you plan to weather shifting market conditions or adapt to changing customer needs.

Consider agility in terms of its antonym, fragility. A fragile company cracks under pressure, while an agile company adapts and becomes stronger.

The value of agility is also in the leverage it creates so you can seize opportunities favorable to your business. When a tract of land becomes available, being agile means you can run the numbers more quickly and more accurately. When the supply chain for your most reliable materials takes a hit, being agile means you can methodically and efficiently find suitable replacements to keep your crews building. Thinking about agility means creating flexibility. 

The Right Next Step

Once you determine why agility matters for your company, you can then decide if you are set up for it ... and how to fully realize its benefits. But you don’t have to be a business wizard or industry heavy-hitter to understand the reasons why. 

Think about agility in terms of physical fitness instead of business capabilities for a moment—there are physical benefits to agility, such as flexibility, balance, and control. 

Emulating flexibility, balance, and control is what activates agility in business. To do so, you need to identify the “right next step” to activate your capacity to keep agility at the center of your thoughts and actions. This “right next step” will help you identify business goals and build agility into the outcomes across every aspect of your operations.


It’s also about grading your capacity to engage with opportunities and scale up, deciding on a series of options no matter what the problem is, and acting to take the correct next step. You need a road map to ensure you can do the rest from an agility-based standpoint. 

Agility is about differentiating your business in the marketplace. It’s a mindset rare among builders—and therefore powerful for those who have it. An agile mindset will really set your organization apart.  

This is the first of a five-part series about agility Pro Builder will publish online and in print in the coming months.

Matt Collins is the managing member of The Mainspring Group, a specialty firm focused on helping private regional home builders identify and take the right steps on their own journey toward agility and operational excellence. 


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