Over at the CIPD, there is much discussion about organisational agility and adaptability.  I personally see agility in very simple terms.

It is a mind-set. And so it starts with the individual.

Agility comes from within us.  It needs energy, enthusiasm, a little oomph.  It means we are nimble, flexible, innovative; we are looking to the future, the next thing, the better thing, the improvement thing.  And we are totally up for it and prepared to go the distance.

Agility doesn’t mean doomsayers, pessimists or mood hoovers. Saying no for the sake of it, rigid adherence to policy, hiding behind processes or fear of setting a precedent.

We can put up our own barriers to agility.  We put barriers and obstacles in the way, and box ourselves in behind them.  We call these barriers policies and procedures, risk registers, guidelines, programme governance, organisational strategies.  They then become part of our culture, our story.  And then we hang onto them for grim death.  They are our ultimate organisational comfort blanket.  Because we have always done it like this, haven’t we?

As a group of HR people we can come up with Hacks to defy these self-imposed barriers.  We can launch culture change programmes, bring in consultants and undertake leadership development. We can talk about change, innovation, continuous improvement. We can advocate dumping the performance review, chuck out the engagement survey, radically re-think how we acquire and manage talent.

But first, if we want agility, we must change our own mind-set.  Know your personal internal barriers; what scares you about change, what stops you embracing the new, the different, the risk.  Hold up the mirror to yourself.

If you want agility, then Identify your own and your organisation’s barriers, and kick them down.  Work out what and who saps your energy, says no for the sake of it, talks down any new suggestion, says ‘we’ve tried it before’, or simply gets in the way.  And then go round them, ignore them, challenge them, kick them out if you have to.  Disrupt the existing state of affairs – then disrupt some more.

Don’t think I don’t know that this is risky.  Some organisations can’t take it, don’t want to be changed.  They might think they ready but they are not.  Agility and bravery does equal personal risk. But so does doing nothing.

So the saying goes, if you do what you have always done you will get what you have always got. And for many people that means organisational Groundhog Day. Repeating the same things, making the same mistakes, trying to solve the same problems.

The only person responsible for deciding whether you are going to be agile and adaptable, is you. And the organisation just might follow you.

To steal another quote, tomorrow is another day.


Image by Graham Smith @AATImage

2 thoughts on “Agility

  1. For me agility has to sit right up there alongside energy and resilience. To be able to be agile and adapt as required we need to be able to cope with the challenges that lie within, the challenge to culture (we’ve always done it that way) or resistance to change (oh Mr COO isn’t going to like that).

    People make things happen – they just need the energy and resilience to see it through.

  2. Hi Gemma,

    Another great post. I agree that change has to come from within and all of us can change and go beyond our self-limiting beliefs to be successful. We can do that by ourselves, in any organisation or indeed our own business. I would argue however that if you want lasting organisational change, you need a strong, compelling vision that the majority of people can believe in and get behind. You need inspirational and focussed leadership that demonstrate their belief in the vision consistently. Without collective belief, a relentless focus on key goals and exceptional honest communication and listening within an organisation, large change initiatives will fail.

    People with agility will succeed, but they may need to jump ship to be happy and successful.

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