The word agility, when we first encounter it as children, means flexibility in a physical sense and may conjure up images of gymnastics exercises. It’s a test of how flexible we are. In the animal universe, when watching wildlife documentaries, we admire those animals whose agility enable them to hunt down their prey.
Interestingly, the concept of Agile (with a capital ‘A’) methodologies were first introduced and adopted in the world of software development as a means of enhancing collaboration among teams so as to respond quickly to changes in project plans. These original definitions have now been taken on a hugely significant importance in the much wider context of individual and organisational.
We’ll be examining that notion in this article, focusing on three key parts:
- Why agility is an important attribute to our success
- What we can do to develop agile workplaces and
- How businesses can actually measure agility
Just as an organisation has to respond to macroeconomic variables and move quickly to capture market opportunities so as to stay ahead of the competition, dealing with any number of threats (think blockchain) along the way, so too do we as individuals need to keep on learning and upskilling to make us more employable (think digitalisation). It’s all about having the right mindset, as a recent article on the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) website pointed out.
Agility is no longer the preserve of leaders (although these are the people making the big decisions at the top). Irrespective of whether you’re a high potential superstar, an experienced individual contributor or just starting out, no matter what your role is, we all have to learn to become agile. For agility to have a holistic impact at the organisational level, you have to start with each individual and then build upwards.
That’s the theory. The problem comes in understanding how to measure and recruit for agility. Have you ever sat down with your manager and been told that you’re highly agile? Or attended an interview and been asked to give an example of your agility?
According to the Morgan Philips Talent Consulting global survey (2019), 86% of business leaders and HR professionals felt that agility was central to their business’s success, yet fewer than a third (28%) said that they measure for agility during their selection and assessment processes, for existing staff and potential future recruits.
The power of agility is that it comprises different traits, each equally important in its own right, for example self-awareness, resilience and having a learning mindset. These are three critical attributes – call them ‘softs skills’ if you will – that we all need to succeed in our careers.
All the academic and research evidence has shown that there is a positive correlation between agility and profitability, so by not monitoring or measuring agility, organisations are missing a golden opportunity to develop and improve their people.
Learning from mistakes
As we know from competency based interviewing, past performance is regarded as the prime indicator of future success, whereas the ‘new norm’ requires us to change our engrained behaviours so that we can understand what’s holding us back and how we can better collaborate in teams. But for the impact of agility to be felt at the enterprise level, it needs to be firmly embedded into all training, development and coaching programmes, as part of psychometric testing and appraisal interviews.
Underpinning eventual successful outcomes and results is the organisational culture. Leaders must themselves endorse an agile mindset, reflected in the actions and communications cascading down from the board level down. If the culture promotes an entrepreneurial spirit, it will give ownership and autonomy to individuals to take (calculated) risks and make important business decisions.
Indeed, making mistakes was highlighted by 92% of our survey respondents as being a key component of agility, yet only 6 in 10 said that their organisations allowed them to try out their ideas and fail. As has been proved time and again, it’s those stretch assignments and experiences that allow us to grow, learn and improve, both professionally and personally.
Agility is the glue that leads to transformational change at the individual and enterprise level.
To learn more about Morgan Philip’s Agility model and how it can transform the careers individuals, the synergy of teams and groups as well as the fortunes of your organisation, go to morganphilips.com/agility