What Does Agile Working Really Entail?

Like me, you are probably hearing the word ‘agile’ used a lot these days. We use it here as part of our consulting and leadership development work. It’s often associated also with the pace of change, technology/digitisation and coping with uncertainty to name a few things.

First and foremost we need to take a good look at ourselves and be prepared to examine the degree to which we are truly open to thinking and relating in a far more flexible way.

But what do we really mean when we think about agile working? Well, it’s a pretty rich field of exploration encompassing the very practical, the behavioural and mind-sets aspects as well as the management and leadership implications. It spans strategy, policy, process, relationships, culture, and systems. Surveying the material available on the subject of ‘becoming an agile leader or organisation’ we very quickly come back to the behavioural and mindset factors. First and foremost we need to take a good look at ourselves and be prepared to examine the degree to which we are truly open to thinking and relating in a far more flexible way. Asking ourselves about where our ‘worldview’, our sense of self or identity and our mental models have started to become a safety blanket that keeps us from being able to contemplate new ideas, new perspectives, and new possibilities.

The quality of our ‘learning agility’ characterised in Korn Ferry’s five definitions across mental, people, change, results and self-awareness encourages us to reflect deeply on our ability to truly embrace diversity, open ourselves to taking ‘risks’, our levels of curiosity, our ability to harness all available resource, human and other, and our constant self-inquiry and adaptability.

Carol Dweck invites us also to consider our Fixed or Growth mindset around five core areas – skills, challenges, effort, feedback, and setbacks.

In these and other such frameworks we return time and time again to our mindset. Do we find safety in the familiar, steady and the seemingly controllable or are we open and ‘permeable’, receptive to the contributions of others without becoming overwhelmed? Successfully able to navigate a far richer and more complex landscape of information, choices, ideas, options, and concepts.

By way of an example of a very practical nature, we see this playing out in policies such as flexible working which whilst seemingly established as a practise in many organisations is far from fully leveraged and still hits up against the buffers of power and control vested in the line manager role and cultural questions around trust, visibility and commitment to the work.

So whilst agile can be expressed in terms of new policies, flatter teams, self-managing teams and concepts such as ‘fail fast’, unless we are each willing to confront our core mindset and develop strategies to really push our boundaries of comfort and security we may well find the move toward agile working, agile leadership and agile organisations a very painful ride indeed.


Lorraine Flower
Lorraine Flower
As a Corporate change agent, consultant, coach and mentor Lorraine founded azzur and is completely transparent about the spiritual principles on which it operates. Alongside her 18 years as azzur’s founder, Lorraine brings 20 years' service industry experience to bear through her senior leadership roles at British Airways (BA) and Great North Eastern Railway (GNER). It is Lorraine's belief in individual and organisational power for good that gives azzur its raison d'etre. azzur and Lorraine specifically has worked with clients across the business spectrum from financial services, to retail and transport to healthcare an in both the public and private sectors. azzur is focused on developing contemporary, spirited leadership capability, and organisations built on inspiring purpose, empowering cultures and a powerful vision and values. She is championing new models of leadership and organisational development founded on the principles of conscious leadership and writes extensively on these topics.She is a member of a number of global spiritual groups and communities serving the greater good of Humanity and the planet. She works and studies extensively in developing and exploring conscious leadership believing that business leaders are key players in transforming the well-being of the planet and humanity as a whole.

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  1. Agile organizations tend to have managers with the right mix of personal attributes, that is, people who demonstrate a variety of skills, clearly comfortable with ambiguity and respectful of processes, without being slaves of them. They understand the difference between influence and authority, and therefore are completely at their own ease in influencing and participating in the team. They do not focus on hierarchy, but on ideas, information, creativity, flexibility, openness and curiosity. Together, these leaders do team, with extensive experience, are resolute, responsive, flexible, able to speed up the decision-making process, given that the main issues have already been discussed. One of the biggest challenges in this complex world is the fact that we need different perspectives, different knowledge and different ways to solve a problem. Sometimes there is not “one” answer: there are some, or many.