Everyone likes to think of themselves as being agile – and we all enjoy throwing the term around every now and then, too – but in today’s new world of work, what does agility actually mean, and why has it become such a popular buzzword?
We live in a business world that’s constantly being rocked by disruption, be it political, economic, digital or organisational in context, and in order to cope with this continuous disruption, organisations and their people need to not only be able to adapt to change, but take ownership for driving that change, in order to succeed. Agility is the ability to move quickly and easily in response to change or challenge, but in a business setting, the term really depends on the context. For instance, think about the agility of your organisation: How do your people respond to change? Does your environment or culture have an impact on agility? Are unexpected challenges effectively resolved and overcome?
When most people think of agility, the systems, processes and structural dimensions tend to take the focus, but agility, at its heart, has a people dimension which takes place on an individual and cultural level.
Here’s some of the many different perspectives of agility in today’s workplace:
What influences organisational agility?
In the 20th century, there was one crucial element to an organisation’s success – structure. Combining a carefully planned and well-executed organisational structure with machine-like processes and procedures was once considered the ultimate recipe for success. Just think of the automotive industry, which experienced rapid growth by continuously refining its internal processes to reduce production time and costs.
But in our modern age, structure and processes more often act as obstacles to success rather than catalysts for it; organisations today need to be able to react quickly to meet new challenges and opportunities.
Unlike their more traditional counterparts, agile organisations actually perform better under pressure. In their strategy, they have a shared sense of purpose. In their structure, they have a strong network of teams that are empowered to take action. In their processes, they enable rapid decision-making and apply a ‘fail fast, learn faster’ approach. Their people are dynamic and ignited around a sense of passion and they’re driven by a commitment to innovation.
According to a study by McKinsey, three-quarters of business executives said agility is a top or top-three priority for their organisation, and nearly 40% are currently conducting an organisational-agility transformation to support more agile ways of working.
What is agile working?
To foster a more agile approach to work, a growing number of organisations are rethinking their current processes, structure and physical environments in order to spark a change in attitude.
For instance, many organisations are investing in physical spaces that empower their employees to work in a more agile manner, from creating open-plan offices with a range of different breakout spaces to encourage collaboration and the free-flow of information, to investing in the right technology that allows people to work flexibly or remotely.
While your work environment can encourage agility, it’s worth pointing out that agile working in its truest form takes place on a cultural level, when your people have been empowered to take charge, and possess the right mindset to put that authority into action. This means they are no longer pigeonholed by their functions or backgrounds – they have the opportunity to work across teams to actually see their ideas and work come into fruition by taking a carpe diem approach. What is your organisation doing to facilitate your people to take ownership? It’s up to organisational leaders to support agile thinking through coaching and development opportunities, and guide your team in the right direction.
But this shift in thinking and attitude requires a shift in your culture. Your organisation needs to celebrate success and reward results over superficial metrics like time spent in the office. And your employees need to feel safe enough to make mistakes and learn from them. Most importantly, these new behaviours must be promoted, encouraged and ‘lived’ by key influencers and leaders within the organisation.
How can you find agile workers?
While redesigning your existing processes, creating a more collaborative team structure and investing in new technology can promote greater agility, to create an agile workforce, you critically need your people to be agile.
So, what is individual agility? Morgan Philips’ expert team of business psychologists define individual agility as “the ability to work with insight, flexibility and confidence in response to challenging and changing circumstances.”
Agility shapes our approach and determines our success in the business world. So, organisations wanting to build an agile workforce need to make agility a focal point in their selection and development strategies.
Based on today’s new world of work and the need to thrive in dynamic landscapes, our team are in the final stages of delivering a behavioural framework that’s centred around agility. This means we’ll soon be able to measure individual insight, personal performance and openness for learning, and provide unique information about the agility factors that may enhance or inhibit a person’s performance. And by assessing how people perceive the business world and how they behave in response to that thinking, we can better understand the pace at which an individual will reach their potential. Our organisational psychologists have also created a coaching offering that’s centred around agility in order to help maximise the time it takes for an individual to reach their potential.
While there are many different perspectives about the definition and application of agility, one thing is for certain – organisations need agile talent in order to cope with the challenges posed in today’s new world of work. Therefore, identifying, developing and harnessing both individuals and teams who possess the key attributes necessary for agile performance is essential.