Organisational Agility

Agile Leadership Mar 22, 2021

Often we see agility as primarily being about product development and while it is true to say that the proper title of The Agile Manifesto is "The Manifesto for Agile Software Development", agility is a capability that organisations need to embrace. What does agility mean in the context of an organisation and how does an agile coach support that agility? This post outlines my perspective and provides a potential framework on which we could build an organisational coaching capability to help our customers with their agility at an organisational level.

What is organisational agility?

Organisation agility, for me, is founded on the following principles. This is the core of the ORGANIC agility framework from Agile42 a group of coaches and trainers who focus on organisational and leadership agility and work closely with Dave Snowden and Cognitive Edge in applying complexity based approaches to organisational challenges.

  • Increasing cultural awareness and coherence - Is our ever changing interaction of relationships and behaviours visible and consistent with our goals as an organisation and do we know how to change them?
  • Deciding based on context - Do we have situational awareness of different contexts we find ourselves in and are able to choose appropriate approaches to decision making, sometimes based on incomplete or unknowable information?
  • Focusing on value creation - Do we know what value is, how to measure it, how to validate it and how to deliver it?
  • Validating change in small increments - Are we validating our strategy through safe to fail experiments and continuously learning to build resilience?
  • Optimising the value flow - Do we understand our value streams and their effectiveness and are we improving the flow of value through them?

What does an agile coach bring?

An agile coach brings the following skills to your team to support you in developing organisational agility. These stances are the core of the ICAgile definition of an agile coach.

  • A broad, relevant practice-based knowledge in the depth of agile frameworks and lean principles and an expertise in business value driven innovation, product development, organisational development and change catalysis.
  • Professional coaching - guiding the creative process that inspires personal and professional potential by following your agenda rather than guiding by knowledge, opinion or influence.
  • Facilitating – being a neutral process holder who guides groups through processes that help them come to solutions and make decisions.
  • Teaching – instructing others in specific knowledge, skills and perspective.
  • Mentoring - Sharing knowledge, skills and perspectives that foster the personal and professional growth of someone else.
  • Advising – Giving options, creating insights, evaluating experiences and offering suggestions whilst recognising the impact this has on one’s neutrality.

What might this look like in practice?

An agile coach is a partner that acts as adviser, mentor, coach or instructor, as appropriate, to support and help organisations develop and implement their agenda for organisational effectiveness. This agenda could include:

  • Creating and articulating clear purpose and intent through a vision that sets direction and motivates your teams.
  • Understanding what value you can create for stakeholders, creating hypotheses on how to achieve it and get effective feedback from those stakeholders.
  • Creating a clear and validated customer – product or service fit in your value proposition.
  • Exploring and validating your business model to ensure viability, test your assumptions and identify strategy.
  • Creating and executing strategy through safe to fail experiments and continuously learning in order to build resilience.
  • Creating clear guidance and constraints around innovation to ensure innovation is focused on strategic objectives.
  • Setting objectives, road maps and measurable outcomes to drive the work you do and demonstrate its success.
  • Building and supporting your teams that deliver your value proposition.


John Cumming

I am a Scrum Alliance CTC with BAE based in the UK. I hope to inspire people to develop themselves, their teams and their organisations through curiosity, collaboration and creativity.

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