What Does It Mean To Be An Agile Organization?

by | Foundations, Leadership, Outcomes, Responding to Change, Teams

A few weeks ago, I got to have a fascinating conversation with cognitive psychologist Dr. Kimberly Halvorson, CEO of @Brainsatwork. With absolutely ZERO jargon, we talked about what it means to be an agile organization and why understanding how human brains work at their best is essential to leading change and shifting mindsets.

I didn’t even realize I was recording, but I am so glad it happened. Eavesdrop on a little clip of our conversation — this is what it sounds like when you get two cognitive science enthusiasts talking about how groups of people get good work done.

Dr. Kimberly Halvorson: The fallacy is that the way I do things is the good way to be productive for everyone, where that productivity looks the same or is this linear thing all the time. That’s simply not true.

Brandi Olson: Have you encountered the ideas around agility and agile organizations?

Dr. Kimberly Halvorson: Not too much. No.

Brandi Olson: So the idea behind being an agile organization is all about delivering the right value to your customers with high quality, faster, and in a way that allows you to respond to change better. One of the truths of how you do that is through really healthy high-performing teams.

Core to an agile organization’s set of values is that the way people interact is more powerful than the processes or tools that you can give them.

Agility is not about everything happening in a prescriptive way. In fact, that won’t work very well because there’s so much nuance and so much variation in every organization.

If what you’re doing is complex, change will happen in unpredictable ways.

There are principles about how we work well together and how a leader needs to support the environment.

There’s a lot of interest in companies and leaders who know that these principles of agility are important but they don’t necessarily understand “the why”.

And if you don’t understand “the why”, you don’t have the tools to navigate when things change.

Many leaders want a set of check boxes to follow, and there are many books and consulting firms that will tell you “do it this way.” That checklist approach works — as long as the environment that you’re in operates exactly that way. But if your environment is different or if something changes and you don’t understand the principle underneath it, a check list of practices and tools won’t get you far.

We have a real need among leaders at organizations of all types and sizes to truly understand the principles about how human beings work well together, learn faster, and collaborate to solve problems.