Building a Culture of Agility

Corinna Ruhl

How do you make an organization dance? How do you make it come alive? - David Yuk

We can never really be certain what’s over the horizon; we can’t always anticipate what changes are coming politically, economically, socially, and technologically. And more than just anticipating the future, many of us want a hand in determining the future—we want to craft it with purpose and intent.

Defining Agility

How is agility different than adaptability? What words come to mind when you think of agility? Here are a few to consider.

  • Ownership - Organizational transformation occurs when individuals are behaving in a fundamentally different way. And yet it is human nature to resist being changed. For an organization to transform successfully, individuals must feel that they are a part of the change. Being agile helps a person take ownership of change, by viewing change as something internal to them that they can participate in in a meaningful way.
    • Agility involves having an internal locus of control.
  • Risk - We may not know what the end state is, but we are creating it together. Being agile means having a high tolerance for ambiguity and being willing to take chances.
    • Agility is continuing to build the ship while you are sailing it.
  • Grace - One definition of agility is being quick and graceful. Being graceful is about having confidence—you may not know what the next step is, but you are confident that you have skills and tools you need to handle what comes. You have response-ability. Agility is a mindset of believing in your success.
    • Motto of the agile: “We’ll figure it out. We’ve got this!”

Training for Agility

Grace is more than just a mindset. It involves training—building strength. Does your organization invest in developing the resiliency of its employees? Do you help team members build their “muscles”—effective communication, receiving and giving feedback, conflict management, leadership, energy and stress management, collaboration, emotional intelligence and critical thinking?

Agility emerges above a solid foundation of many others skills. Agility isn’t about sprinting from one fixed point to another, it’s more about gracefully navigating an obstacle course, and making adjustments from moment to moment.

Building a Culture of Agility

Think of your organization and what it would take to inspire and lead an agile culture.

  • What language do leaders use to describe change? How is change framed? How does this set your organization up for success and promote innovation?
  • How is agility acknowledged and rewarded?
  • Do you recruit for agility? Do you seek team members who are confident and response-able?
  • Do you build individual and collective muscle through training? Do your teams feel they have the opportunity to build the foundational skills that agility requires?

No matter where we are currently (personally or as an organization) we can learn and develop our agility!

David Yuk is our Organizational Transformation and Change Management expert. Read David's bio.