Leading Organisational Agility

What does it mean to be an agile organisation? Whilst many of us may instinctively be drawn to connotations of speed, true agility represents a delicate balance between flexibility and stability, and a capacity to not only react to the demands of an ever-changing market, but also a desire to constantly rethink, reinvigorate, and reinvent our approach to business.

July 2021

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the adoption of agile processes (ranging from quick adaptions to market changes to increased flexibility in dealing with customer demands) has quite rightly come to be regarded as an essential aspect of effective organisational functioning. Put simply, when it comes to business survival, there can be no room for apathy when it comes to embracing agility.

In this month’s Hot Topic, we explore how we can unlock our organisation’s adaptive potential through championing a culture of organisational agility.

Getting up to speed with agility

From increased product quality and customer satisfaction, to improved financial performance and team morale, the benefits associated with adopting an agile approach are undoubtedly appealing. For these benefits to be fully realised however, we must exercise caution and ensure we don’t simply direct all our efforts towards the implementation of processes we believe will enhance speed and efficiency. Instead, we must demonstrate our aptitude to for organisational agility, through creating a culture which provides a central focus on the continued satisfaction of our 3C core capabilities:

C1 (Change): The agile organisation should be able to facilitate change in at least one of four ways: by facilitating the creation of change; by pre-empting change if it is created elsewhere; by responding proactively to change after it has occurred; and by continually learning from change in order to positively inform future creation, proaction, and reaction. For change processes to be successful, businesses must be also willing to engage in continuous and real-time evaluation.

C2 (Contribution): The agile organisation appreciates that all key business processes should positively contribute to: (1) perceived economy through actively adopting more cost-effective tools and techniques; (2) perceived simplicity through activity adopting more simplistic tools and techniques and (3) perceived quality through the continual monitoring of these newly adopted tools and techniques. Equally, it’s important to note that any processes which are introduced must never detract value from these aforementioned areas.

C3 (Continual readiness): The agile organisation and the people within it should be continually ready to act upon and implement new processes without delay (and without incurring any unnecessary costs). This requires organisations to continually scan for emerging trends, whilst also ensuring continued alignment between the change and contribution related processes which have been introduced.

From friction to fluidity: Exploring the role of the agile leader

Agility requires fluidity, and should we hope to successfully maximise our 3C capabilities, those of us in positions of leadership must work to reduce the inevitable sources of friction which have the potential to slow down or even halt the progress of our agile pratices. Take a moment to familiarise yourself with some of the key challenges you are likely to encounter when introducing your own agility agenda, and the solutions you can deploy to overcome them.

Challenge 1: Organisational gravity
When attempting to instigate transformative agile processes, many employees may quickly gravitate back to old ways of working; especially if they do not witness quick results.


Leaders must ensure that their working teams fully appreciate that agility is reliant on a willingness to embrace change. To help ease the agile transition, ensure there is clear alignment between existing professional roles and newly introduced processes. Furthermore, when attempting to introduce the concept of agility, be mindful that employees may often show initial enthusiasm and may even adopt agile vocabulary, however, to ensure they are not simply paying lip service to semantics, its crucial to exercise continued vigilance, and more importantly, make oneself accountable by serving as a role model who personifies the new processes being introduced.

Challenge 2: Misalignment between process and culture

Should agility based pratices fail to make an impact. There may be a temptation to change the process rather than address the underlying culture.


Leaders must appreciate that organisational agility requires a delicate balance between stability and dynamism. From a stability perspective, leaders must ensure their organisation remains true to its core vision and values, promotes standardised ways of working, and champions continued cohesion. From a dynamic perspective, leaders must promote a proactive culture, in which employees feel equipped to effectively sense and seize on emerging opportunities, adapt to changing customer demands, and if necessary, function across organisational boundaries so they can lend their support and expertise to emerging agile projects.

Challenge 3: Lack of urgency

As the name suggests, agility requires swift and proactive action. Should top management not buy into the integration of agile processes, momentum may quickly be lost.


Leaders must create a sense of urgency through ensuring agility-based transformation is regarded as a top strategic priority and not an optional short-term initiative. As well as highlighting the benefits associated with its adoption, it is crucial that top executives appreciate that once introduced, agile processes must be regarded as a central component of the company’s DNA. Ensuring this message is fully endorsed and reinforced within every silo of the organisation will be key to long-term success.

Action point:
What do you believe to be your biggest challenge in the pursuit of organisational agility, and how do you plan to overcome it?


Referenced techniques


Corporate/Organisational Culture

This concept explores how organisations build up their own culture through tradition, history and structure. It also suggests that culture provides organisations with a sense of identity.


T-Shaped People

Expand creativity and innovation in your company by attracting T-shaped people.


Transformational Change

The concept presents empirical evidence on the evolving role of transformational change and case study evidence of such changes within organisations.

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