In Dogged Pursuit of Agility

The topic of Agility might just be the most talked about and least understood concept floating around C-level these days.

Those conversations are now cascading further into the organization, most likely landing in the laps of HR and L&D professionals to learn more about what agility means and how it can be applied. So, we turn to Google or Alexa and ask about “Agility.”

And there it is…dog training!

Seriously, much of what you see on the web in regard to agility training revolves around man’s best friend. But when we finally get to agility’s human side we find multiple definitions, concepts and models. So let’s spend this blog walking through what’s out there.

Design Thinking

Stanford University created “design thinking” as a process to stimulate development of innovative new products. It draws on methods from engineering and design and combines them with ideas from the arts, social sciences, and the business world. The phrase has become widely used and remains one of Stanford’s most sought-after courses.

Design Thinking is geared toward physically producing a product. It’s a formal, structured process with five stages: empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test. These stages don’t necessarily have to occur in this order, but when they’re all applied they can help teams solve complex problems and create innovative products.

While design thinking works well for product development groups, when the innovation is confined to a specific group or area it perpetuates the thought that innovation and creativity is someone else’s job. Design Thinking certainly has its place but it doesn’t address how an entire organization can become more agile when it allows all employees to generate and implement innovative ideas in order to make their jobs better and the organization more agile.

 Learning Agility

Learning agility is the ability and willingness to learn from experience and then apply that learning to perform successfully in new situations. It’s most often associated with Korn Ferry, a consulting group that created an assessment called Learning Agility Architect.

This personality assessment basically groups people into two buckets: those who are agile and those who are not. Then, those ranked as agile are further identified with labels like “problem solver,” “champion,” “energizer” or “trailblazer,” based on their profiles. This helps identify agility skills and preferences in people and recognizes the strengths that someone might bring to a particular position in an organization.

Personality assessments are designed to measure underlying traits and attributes in people, with the belief that these traits are unchangeable. We are who we are, and that will never change. This assessment is good for promotion, succession planning, and even high-potential selection, but it’s not designed as a training tool to teach people the skills needed to overcome their natural tendencies. These tendencies, called cognitive biases, stand in the way of a person becoming more agile. Survey results by themselves won’t help organizations get more original ideas from their workforce.

Change Management

Change Management is generally regarded as a structured, formal process for deploying change initiatives that have already been decided upon by upper management. It provides a common language around change deployment and is most effective for larger, companywide change initiatives. It’s not unusual to find change management roles, even departments, inside organizations today.

The two most common models you’ll find in the change management space are the “Prosci ADKAR Model” and Dr. John Kotter’s “8-Step Change Model.” Both are intended to provide an understanding of their change management methodologies and how to apply them.

These change management programs can be time-intensive and feel somewhat bureaucratic in nature, because the process is controlled by a few individuals. The programs don’t always support thinking from all levels in an organization, because the change may feel “thrust upon” workers, implying that all change needs to be big and formal. This can inadvertently stifle agile thinking and innovation among individuals in the organization who may otherwise generate their own ideas and look for ways to apply them. Change management processes are good for large-scale deployment of change but don’t help to create a bottom-up culture of innovation.

Agile Software Development

This process might contain the word “agile” and use some other cool words like “waterfall” and “scrum,” but it really has nothing to do with what we’re talking about here. Agile software development is best described as an evolutionary method that breaks software development into small increments to minimize risks and allow the product to adapt to changes quickly. So, back to our story:

Personal Agility

As human beings we’re all born with a high degree of creativity. Throughout our lives, however, we’re conditioned to eliminate agile thinking and taught to conform and not challenge our parents, teachers and people in authority. This suffocates our creativity over time, limiting our thinking to the same ideas over and over again.

Humans have built-in cognitive biases preventing us from doing things differently. Luckily for humans (and maybe for dogs) agility is almost 80 percent learned and acquired.

The first step to becoming more agile is identifying and understanding those biases, and then overcoming them. Unlocking Personal Agility is training approach that provides methods to diminish our status quo bias and encourage innovation and collaboration.

The training is based on a model that inspires creative thinking by showing us how to investigate new ideas, design them, get others excited about them and ultimately implement them. It actually complements Design Thinking, Learning Agility and Change Management. This brings even more success to teams as they develop innovative products and oversee the deployment of change.

This bottom-up strategy gives you the chance to develop a culture of agility. Imagine a place where everyone is empowered to generate ideas! Soon you’ll have thousands of ideas being generated from all parts of the organization, providing your company the Organizational Agility required to thrive at the pace of your competition.

So it doesn’t go to the dogs…

Learn more about Organizational Agility (for humans) here >>

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