As we began developing the organizational agility framework, we tracked down and reviewed numerous research studies that examined some aspect of organizational agility. While reading through all of this research, we grouped the concepts (i.e., the variables or levers) examined in each study by similarity. Those three major groupings follow:
Together these three groupings make up our organizational agility framework, which is shown in Figure A.1. Supporting references that document the importance and relevance of each part of the framework are shown in figure A.2–A.5.
Figure A.1: Organizational Agility Framework
When we consult with organizations on how to enhance their organizational agility, this framework guides our thinking and advice. It would not be effective to try to change an organization by working on one lever at a time, however. Rather, when we work with an organization, our guidance follows the same order as the chapters in this book. Note that psychological safety does not appear in our framework as a separate dimension; instead, it runs throughout each of the routines and levers.
In figure A.2 below, we describe the variables for each of the three groupings and present the references we drew on to create the framework.
Our framework includes the external and internal environment. The external environment comprises factors outside the organization, such as changes to legislation, social factors and trends, customer or citizen expectations, technology, and natural events. The internal environment includes factors within an organization that affect a specific group or area inside that organization.
Figure A.2: The Environment
Our literature review found that agile organizations engage in routines and enact certain levers to support those routines. In agile organizations, everyone is involved in sensing and interpreting routines as well as responding routines (see Figure A.3). These routines are second nature to people in agile organizations.
Figure A.3: Agility Routines
Our research review also found that the organization must carry out work in a manner that supports agility routines. We identified seven levers that leaders can use to change the way work is organized (see figure A.4):
Each lever includes aspects of both stability and flexibility.
Figure A.4: Agility Levers
We identified two types of outcomes that can be used to monitor an organization’s progress as it works to enhance its organizational agility (see Figure A.5). First, organization-level outcomes include organizational effectiveness and customer satisfaction. Second, individual-level outcomes include role clarity, job satisfaction, engagement, and intent to stay with the organization.
Using the organizational agility framework, we created an evaluative tool to measure an organization’s current levels of organizational agility, which we called the Government Organizational Agility Assessment (GOAA).1 For each variable in the framework, we wrote a series of questions that employees could answer as a way to provide feedback on the organization’s current levels of agility.
When we use the GOAA with a group—which might be a branch, division, or department within a larger organization—we usually ask everyone to respond to the questions using an online survey. We then aggregate the responses and gather everyone together to review the results. If we have a large enough group, we often break people into smaller groups to review the results and decide what to do about them. Then we have each small group report on their findings so that everyone can see all of the action items and suggestions.
We use this hands-on format to try to reinforce some of the agility principles: usually the leader of the group does not get a special sneak preview of the results! The leader is usually amenable to this, as it sends the message that everyone is equal when they all see the results at the same time. This format also encourages collaboration. We have witnessed many productive conversations during which hierarchy matters little, as insights are shared by leaders at all levels of the organization, including individual contributors. We find that once people come to a shared understanding of the results, they have spontaneous discussions about what they can to do shift the levers and enhance organizational agility. The action items that they propose usually include ways that they can behave differently to support others as they carry out the routines and ways that they can enhance the routines and shift the levers toward agility.
Of course, there is no magic bullet for transforming an organization. A single assessment like the GOAA is, by itself, not likely to radically change the organization. Everyone in the organization must commit to trying out some new behaviors. Leaders must start things rolling by experimenting with their own actions. And they must stick with them, even if they feel uncomfortable at first! Real change will come from not giving up and reverting to traditional organizational principles. It takes time, but in the end it will yield the outcomes that the organization needs to fare well in today’s times.
1. Kirkpatrick et al. provides reliability and validity evidence for the GOAA.