Organisational Agility – A Business Imperative


The rate of change powered by technology, globalisation, and complexity has been increasing for decades. Business leaders are faced with continuously changing environments where threats and opportunities appear rapidly, making the need for fast and effective adjustments critical for success. In this regard, organisational agility should be seen as a core competency – required to not only survive, but thrive, in an environment of incessant change – a source of competitive advantage.

Yet traditional organisational structures are not built for speed and are typically unable to make the adjustments needed to quickly adapt to changes. Typical organisational designs are essentially anti-change burdened with rigid leadership hierarchies, organisational structures and information systems that are not aligned with current demands, and corporate cultures with an inertia that resists new ideas or processes. The result is that identifying and implementing meaningful change in many, if not most organisations, is difficult if not virtually impossible. Executives are becoming increasingly frustrated at not being able to overcome the organisational inertia inhibiting their ability to execute strategies quickly, efficiently and effectively.

A dynamic and fluid environment requires capabilities to navigate extreme uncertainty generated by innovation and increased competition. Agile organisations must develop dynamic capabilities to be successful in the 21st Century.


A model for organisational agility

As shown in Exhibit 1, the model is composed of three primary components: systems, leadership, and culture. At the heart of the model are people who power the complex and interrelated system by contributing unique experience, expertise, and skills through collaboration, purpose, and relationships. Each component has multiple observable dimensions. The model provides a practical model of organisational agility along with a diagnostic instrument to assess multiple dimensions of organisational agility.

Exhibit 1: The Performance Triangle

Organisational Agility Triangle

Culture, Leadership, and Systems frame the corners of the Performance Triangle. Superior decision-making and effective actions require a culture that creates shared context. Leadership needs to be interactive and to facilitate the conversation around purpose, direction, and performance. Systems that work diagnostically, direct attention to those aspects that matter most and allow for self-directed action on deviations from the chosen path. Shared context, intense interactions, and diagnostic controls make organisations agile. They help people to detect weak signals early, allow for interpretation of that information, and facilitate timely action. These are the foundations of an agile organisation.



The culture of an organisation creates shared context, enables or inhibits knowledge exchange, and defines the boundaries of collaboration. A vibrant culture establishes shared context as the common ground with a shared agenda, language, thought models, relationships, and purpose. Shared context is all about a shared mindset, the behaviour of individuals based on common thinking and shared norms. The organisational culture becomes the invisible force that, like gravity, shapes all interactions within the universe in which the organisation exists.

Sample diagnostic statement:

  • My organisation shares the same intent, agenda, attitude and beliefs. It does what it says and releases the productive energy to drive performance.



Leadership is a key component of the model. Effective leaders in agile organisations interact with people on a personal level, relate to others to facilitate meaningful collaboration, and establish a supportive work environment based on trust. Leadership, in the broadest sense, is characterised by effective communication and interaction with others at all levels throughout the organisation. Successful leadership varies by organisation and situation. A leadership style that is successful in one organisation in a specific situation many not necessarily be effective if applied in a different organisation or situation. Effective leaders in an agile organisation, develop effective communication and interaction skills that are natural and unique to the leader and organisation.

Sample diagnostic statement:

  • All Leaders enable trust through productive conversations on direction, purpose, expectations, and boundaries. They rely on responsible people to get stuff done.



Systems represent the institutional framework with rules, routines, and tools that set the stage for rigorous and disciplined leadership. Technology based information systems accumulate, store, process, and provide access to information and facilitate immediate feedback. Human systems in the form of rules, routines, and guidelines of many types provide frameworks that give technology structure and relevance. The role of systems is to create meaning while balancing top down direction with bottom up creativity. Systems support implementation with the right balance between freedom and constraints to maintain control. To support collaboration among people, systems make information available to assist people to find purpose and support formation of beliefs and decisions. In addition, systems set boundaries to achieve the desired balance between entrepreneurship and efficiency.

Sample diagnostic statements:

  • Our infrastructure supports good leadership and decision making without too much bureaucracy throughout the organisation.
  • Our policies clarify the rules of the game with the right balance between rigorous standards and sufficient degrees of freedom. They make people accountable.
  • Our processes help everyone set the pace, and it raises the awareness for critical
    decisions with adequate control. They help us reduce complexity.
  • All our controls help everyone focus on important things. They give people sufficient guidance on how things are to be done in a fast moving environment.


Individuals perform at their highest potential by winning their “inner game” and overcoming self-doubt, fear, bias, limiting concepts or assumptions that distort perceptions, decisions, behaviours, actions and stress that interfere with, and diminish, performance. Awareness about what is going on around them, choice to choose the best solution, and trust in others help people to focus attention on tasks and problems. Reaching a state of flow, the state where performance and creativity are at a peak, must be a primary objective at all levels of an agile organisation.

Control systems are needed to manage both evolutionary and revolutionary change by formalising beliefs, setting boundaries on acceptable strategic behaviour, defining and monitoring performance variables, encouraging debate, and discussion about uncertainties, communicating new strategies, establishing targets, and securing attention to new strategic initiatives. Interactive leadership and diagnostic systems play an important role in creating a work environment where people succeed in ‘playing the inner game’.

Sample diagnostic statements:

  • Our people are able to focus attention and energy on tasks without interferences.
  • Our people are aware of forces that influence actions and decisions.
  • Our people trust co-workers and management to be treated fairly and with respect. Management is seen to be credible.
  • Our people are allowed the freedom to use their own creative ability to solve problems, respond to customers and to be innovative.


Collaboration, Purpose, and Relationships

The result of a high-energy work environment results an intense collaboration, a high sense of purpose and trusting relationships. These features have a stabilising effect on organisations known as resilience or ‘robustness’. Organisations reach higher levels of resilience through collaboration, purpose, and relationships as cooperative strategies. Companies are able to reinvent themselves and find new business models while preserving core competencies.

Sample diagnostic statements:

  • Our people freely collaborate and exchange information across organisational boundaries for high efficiency and leverage.
  • Our people have reliable relationships and establish trust with key customers and supports within and outside the organisation.
  • Our people have access to everything they need to find purpose, establish a clear identity, and fully commit to what the organisation does.


Establishing an environment for superior performance

The Performance Triangle, combining speed, agility and resilience represents an organisation’s operating environment aimed at increasing an organisations ability to act.

Exhibit 2: Dynamic Capabilities

Orgnaisational Agility Performance Triangle Capabilities

Speed represents an organisations ability to implement strategy fast. Agility provides the capacity to change without having to change. It is the efficacy with which we can respond to non-stop change and resilience adds stability as the capacity to absorb, react to, and potentially reinvent the business model as a consequence of change.

Speed, agility and resilience describe the elements of an organisation’s ability to act. Such organisations enable people to perform the ‘inner game’ and create the capabilities to cope with a turbulent environment. Such competencies refer to special dynamic capabilities. Their purpose is to enable an organisation to reconfigure its resources to quickly adapt to a changing environment.

With a constantly changing environment, dynamic capabilities are a true competitive advantage. They enable sensing of change, seizing of opportunities, the management, maintenance, and transformation of an organisation to remain competitive.


About Change Synergy

We are passionate about helping you build a change capable organisation

Change Synergy (formerly Changefirst Australia) is a change management consulting and training firm that helps clients build the necessary change capability and capacity to realise the expected benefits from business critical change initiatives. We are a single resource for equipping organisations to not only survive but thrive in an environment of incessant change.

In Australia & New Zealand, Change Synergy works with some of the region’s most progressive companies including AGL Energy, Asahi Beverages, Allianz Insurance, Australian Unity and World Vision to name a few.

We believe in creating synergy – truly ‘change capable’ organisations have specific characteristics that support organisational agility, enabling them to quickly embark on – and more successfully implement – change. Such organisations typically THINK differently – they focus and have an organisational mind-set & behaviours that are more conducive to change – and INVEST differently – they embed processes and develop capabilities so their people are equipped to act. Creating this synergy is at the very core of what we do.

The team at Change Synergy has a passion for transferring skills, tools and processes to enable organisations to build a sustainable capability to manage change. We are professional consultants, designers and facilitators with a global reach and extensive market experience and we are surrounded and supported by a world-class team of exclusive partners such as Changefirst (People-Centred Implementation (PCI®) methodology and e- change® platform) , Deakin University (Research) & Digital Playlab (Technology Solutions).

Change Synergy is a proud partner to the Change Management Institute (CMI) of Australia and New Zealand, and is the exclusive partner for Changefirst in Australia and New Zealand.

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