Organizational Agility Requires Both Resiliency and Agility
Change is coming at you, or you’re causing it—or both.
If change is thrust upon you—from somewhere beyond your control—how you deal with it is important to your future behavior, your success, and your health.
The most resilient people do more than simply bounce back from adversity and challenges—they bounce forward. When change feels overwhelming, you can learn to reframe the experience as an opportunity to develop new skills, learn new information and help your colleagues.
If you’re the one causing the change—you like to disrupt, challenge, create—how you manage your behavior to actually implement new ideas is equally important to your success, in business and in life. Because agile people know how to generate, evaluate and incorporate original and useful ideas.
It’s Not You—It’s Your Brain!
Becoming more resilient and agile begins by developing an “adaptive mindset” that results in changing our behavior. What prevents us from developing that kind of mindset? Our own human nature—our brains! We’re creatures of habit and aren’t easily motivated to change those habits, and that prevents us from being as resilient and agile as we could.
Creating an adaptive mindset requires learning and practice, because the skills required don’t come naturally to us. Only 20 percent of agility is genetic, leaving lots of room for us to understand and learn how to behavior differently to become more agile. Research has found the skills required to become more resilient can be learned and adopted at any age and stage in our careers.
First, we have to recognize that cognitive biases affect everyone, and they have a big effect on our thinking and behavior. These biases are subconscious and systematic, happening all the time without us even being aware of them. They cause errors in thinking that result in mistakes and bad decisions and they influence our behavior.
Next, we need to understand how to mitigate these biases using strategies to shake up our typical ways of thinking and behaving. It’s about changing habits, accomplished only by practicing new behaviors, one at a time. These new behaviors don’t need to be dramatic but they can have a big influence by changing our way of thinking and behaving.
Change Is About People, Not Processes or Technology
Change happens in leaps, not baby steps. There was a time when change was more incremental. Not any more. Change is fast and often big. And that’s the shortcoming of change models, which are helpful but insufficient.
Companies have traditionally used “change models” like Kotter or ADKAR. While these are helpful, they’re not enough to manage the kind of change happening today. We need more human-centered approaches, which is where resiliency and agility come in to the picture. Success of change depends largely on people, not on process or technology.
An IBM Global Making Change Work Study researched over 470 companies from 15 nations and 21 industries, focusing on how to close the gap between leaders expecting change and feeling prepared to successfully handle that change. That gap actually increased from 8 to 22 percent.* Today, approximately 80 percent of senior leaders have already directed L&D to implement a program, but 42 percent of companies haven’t done anything.
Not only is it good for employees to develop both agility and resiliency, but the business outcomes make it worthwhile. The IBM research found that companies with greater levels of both agility and resiliency were more competitive and profitable, even in highly turbulent environments.
Research done at Humana 2017 found that focusing on agility without also training on resiliency leads to increased stress, and business results that fall short of expectations. **
The Agility ‘Catch 22’
You want your organization to be more agile, right? But change is stressful, even if it’s “good” change. If you’re creating agile change, the stress on the workforce can cause employees to be unable to implement the change the way it was designed, so the process fails.
Many researchers advise organizations to develop agility and resiliency together, at multiple levels (individuals, leaders and teams), because resiliency is always important, but even more important under conditions of high agility and change.
There are two types of agility: organizational and personal. Organizational agility is what companies want to achieve, so they can capitalize on opportunities. They get there by developing the agility of their people. Personal agility is about developing a flexible mindset, and this allows you to come up with good ideas and then put them into practice. When individuals and teams develop this ability, it bubbles up to create an agile organization.
The most agile people find new ways to view problems; they even discover problems no one noticed before. Research has shown that the most creative teams find new problems rather than just solving old ones. Mitigating our biases helps people find opportunities and develop good ideas.
Resiliency and Agility: A Powerful, Productive Combination
The American Heart Institute found that 94 percent of employees across companies said that resiliency training had a positive impact on them. Research done by the Corporate Executive Board shows employees who are agile and initiate change have a 43 percent more positive impact on their companies than those who just have the capacity to change.
Learning to become more resilient and more agile produces innumerable personal gains for each of us and improves the organizational effectiveness in the places we work.
For more information, read this whitepaper on the performance connections between Agility and Resilience >>
Sources: *Jorgensen, 2008 |**Braun, 2017