In any workshop we hold the last couple of years, any coaching session we do, the word “agility” keeps popping up in the vocabulary. When we ask the question, ‘what does agility mean for your organisation’, we get a range of responses from blunt looks to answers of ‘we have to be faster’. Organisations have jumped on the bandwagon and are doing agility in some sort of manner or form, while at the same time, most people we speak to, are stressing out about it. One organisation is now holding meetings standing up, because apparently that makes the meetings last less… another, is empowering decision-making to lower levels of the organisation, however, they haven’t grant them the respective authority to do so and as a result the people get frustrated because they feel they don’t have the power and eventually get demotivated. Recently, we also heard that there are courses of agile coaching…
Executives are reacting to the concept of agility with a greater-than-average negative affect, yet keep insisting on doing it, whatever “it” is, or they think it is.
Agility as a concept is not new. It seems that the idea appeared around about in the early 1990s in manufacturing when members of industry, government, and academia got their heads together to figure out how to make the United States competitive in manufacturing. Later on, it included enterprise agility as well.
If we take Swisher’s general definition of agility, “the ability and willingness to learn from experience, and subsequently apply that learning to perform successfully under new or first-time conditions”. Excuse me, but isn’t this a mindset that one should have in business anyway? Have I missed something?
Another source of frustration is that organisational efforts to implement agility (or any concept for that matter) do not include both Behavioural as well as the Structural foundations for such concepts to be successful. The Behavioural aspect includes changes in mindset and behaviours, while the Structural aspect includes the policies and procedures that will facilitate (and not hinder) the mindset and behaviours. The first question that any organisation needs to ask, is what does agility mean for us and how will that help us achieve what we want to achieve? Agility is not about just doing things even faster… And if we dig into Swisher’s definition there is an underlying necessary ingredient for this to succeed, that in my experience with teams and organisations, they miss more often than not. The concept of Reflection. Pulling the break, stepping back or whatever you want to call it. Without that, whether you are an individual or organisation, you wont’ be able to do any of the above.
Article written by Nikos Floros, CFR Global Executive Search Greece
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