What It Takes to Become An Agile Organization

To survive, organizations must anticipate, prepare and respond to the challenges of a changing world and evolving workplace. To thrive, organizations must seek to become agile, functioning effectively and efficiently even as they adapt to new, rapid and ongoing forces and waves of change.

Organizations can become agile or increase agility through a number of factors including diversity and inclusion. Diversity can encompass the more commonly considered dimensions such as age, gender ethnicity, race, national origin and religion as well as less commonly considered dimensions such as education and cognitive ability. By hiring diverse individuals and providing a respectful and engaging workplace, organizations can then develop and leverage the skills and strengths of the diverse individuals who comprise its workforce.

The approach to agility tends to vary according to an organization’s size and age. It can also vary by industry. For example, financial institutions are generally more risk-averse and more cognizant of the need for compliance with various laws and regulations. Like the financial industry, academia is another arena that has traditionally been less inclined to make rapid or extreme change.

The U.S. Army, on the other hand, appears to fully embrace the need for change in a world of ambiguous and complex situations. In its Human Dimension Strategy of 2015, the Army examined three pillars for its success: Cognitive Dominance, Realistic Training and Institutional Agility. To “win in a complex world,” the Army believes it needs to be agile, not only at tactical and operational levels, but also at the strategic and institutional levels. It acknowledged that this meant that diverse talent was needed for the development of cohesive teams and agile leaders who could “win” in any endeavor.

Regardless of industry, organizations must be agile in order to survive the global changes in our future. Inclusive workplaces and diverse workforces will be the best-equipped to gain institutional agility and advantage.

Below is a compilation of some of the strategies for increasing organizational agility:

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  • Flatten the pyramid: Reduce the levels in the organizational chart so decision-makers are closer to the operational core.
  • Remove barriers: Reduce bureaucracy, cut through red tape, examine long-held procedures and policy, and weigh risks. Remove obstacles to creativity and performance.
  • Stay in compliance: Overcome any pressure or temptation to place agility before compliance.
  • Be inclusive: Recruit with diversity in mind. Provide opportunity in a welcoming work environment that encourages respect for differences (e.g., background, experience, opinion, ways of thinking, etc.).
  • Encourage innovation: Hire diverse talent, and encourage and foster creativity. Build cohesive teams that can adapt and prepare for change.
  • Deploy efficient, perhaps, disruptive technology: Select and utilize right-fit, effective technology to assist human effort.
  • Track, measure, test, review, evaluate, repeat: Identify the correct key performance indicators, track data and generate predictive analytics.

This is the choice for today’s leaders: Be still and stagnant or swept away; or, be diverse, adaptive and successful.

  • R T

    Great article Cindy. Very relevant to today’s environment.

  • http://www.hrstandards.com.au Dr Chris Andrews

    The concept of ‘Agility’ works well in dog training and for elite sports. The application of the concept to modern HR is less clear. It is noticeable that a definition of Agility is not offered, only attributes that may, or may not, reflect agility. Perhaps when we see it we all can marvel at what we missed (sounds quite vague, like a learning organisation).

    The inclusion of effectiveness and efficiency is instructive. This works well for performance auditing but to be complete we should add the third element ‘economy’. A performance auditor would focus on the three E’s.

    As we don’t have an agreed definition, or a Standard for the evalualtion, it is hard to audit for Agility. Is Agility more of an aspiration than a performance Standard?

    My Agility definition? Agility is just fragility with a dash of hope. I’ll stick with HR Standards designed with flexibility, something we can objectively measure and performance audit against.

  • Keith Halperin

    Thanks, Cindy.

    “Agile” for:

    Software Development: Quite frequently done.

    Organization (as a whole): Possibly done, if they’re OK with upsetting much of those invested in the status quo

    Recruiting: See the “Agile Recruiting Manifesto (https://www.eremedia.com/ere/the-agile-recruiting-manifesto/)
    HR (as a whole): Probably an oxymoron.