- Ravasi and Schultz: "Organisational Culture" – a set of shared assumptions that guide behaviours.
- Oxford Dictionary: "Agility" – the ability to move quickly and easily; the ability to think and understand quickly.
- Harvard Business Review: "Learning Agility" – a set of qualities and attributes that allow an individual to stay flexible, grow from mistakes, and rise to a diverse array of challenges.
We often see Agility cited as a value in medium-to-large companies. This clearly makes a lot of sense. As McKinsey indicates, Agility brings "faster, higher-quality decision making, better-quality products, faster delivery, and stronger employee engagement."
However, while organisations often express a desire for greater agility, they aren’t necessarily identifying, growing and rewarding agile behaviours. To create an agile culture, there needs to be both potential and ambition to change.
This is easier said than done. People don't like change, especially when it is imposed upon them. So how does one address this seemingly impossible task? What is the key to imbuing Agility into the culture of an organisation?
The steps to fostering a culture of agility
The best place to start is a common understanding. Once a concept is named and described, it becomes easier to recognise, discuss and value. At HFMtalentindex, our working definition of Learning Agility is the ability to rapidly develop new, effective behaviour based on new experiences. We have seen countless examples where clear, common understanding starts to uplift agility, which by definition – and from experience – lowers resistance to change.
Then there’s measurement. Fortunately, Agility is directly measurable. It is found within the combination of innate potential, drives and demonstrated behaviour.
Learning Agility can be measured for individuals, as well as benchmarked for groups. Once there is a perspective from a consistent set of measurements, it’s easier to make informed management decisions. This process simultaneously feeds back into the overall recognition and understanding of Agility.
Creating agile leaders and agile teams
Once you’ve defined Agility in your organisation and measured where you stand, what next?
Unfortunately, research shows that a few agile people cannot simply be inserted into an underperforming team. If you do this, their desire for change will quickly be diminished. Agility needs to be shifted for the majority.
Our experience is that developing Agility should start at the top. Management needs to start by opening themselves up to understanding, analysing and improving their Leadership Agility. This process then cascades down the layers and ultimately becomes part of the cultural DNA throughout the organisation.
As leadership better understands and values those behaviours associated with effective change, a shift will start. Greater self-awareness and introspection highlights strengths and naturally uplifts lower areas of Agility. Self-awareness is part of the Learning Agility domain and is a central pillar of building effective new behaviour.
Programmes aimed at building agility will gain traction and selection processes can incorporate Agility as a criterion. As Agility becomes valued both internally and at the front door, both innate potential and desire for Agility are increased within the group.
From reactive to proactive
As the company becomes more agile, leaders and employees will be better primed to engage with the change and to focus on the behaviours necessary to facilitate it. Experimenting, considering, collaborating and striving, all combined with introspection, are needed to quickly and constructively develop new, effective methods and approaches. When mistakes are made, lessons are learned quickly, and learnings fed back into the adaptation process.
The impact of this iterative process of building agility is palpably visible. Change-resistant organisations, by valuing, measuring and building Agility, become more open to change.
Interested in finding out more about Learning Agility? Download our summary of the HFMtalentindex global Learning Agility research.