Rapid changes in competition, customer demand, emerging technology and regulations have made it mission-critical than ever for organizations to be able to respond and adapt quickly to change imperatives. In today’s business environment, organizational agility is no longer a luxury, but a necessity!

Within a challenging economy and business context, ‘agility’, in the workplace, represents the ability of an organization to rapidly identify and adapt to business market and environmental changes in productive and cost-effective ways. The Agile Organization is an extension of this concept, referring to an organization that uses key principles of complex adaptive systems and complexity science to achieve success. One can say that business agility is the outcome of organizational intelligence.

Agility demands two critical proficiencies: (1) dynamic capability, ability to move fast, nimbleness, and responsiveness and: (2) a stable corporate framework that doesn’t change while other organizational mechanisms are changing constantly.

The key Agile Organization goal is to make change a routine component of corporate life and reduce or eliminate the organizational trauma that paralyzes many companies attempting to adjust and adapt to new markets and business and technology environments. Since change is perpetual, the Agile Organization is able to quickly change and leverage and exploit emerging opportunities.

Agile Organizations: Characteristics

The key characteristics of an Agile Organization encompass the following:

  • Strategic alignment and clarity around the corporate mission, and vision and values.
  • Comprise self-aware individuals whose actions affect the organization as a whole.
  • Adapt a catalyst style of leadership by inspiring others without losing cohesion within the total organization.
  •  Embrace failure as a learning opportunity, have a strong purpose, a vitality and a learning mindset
  • Continuous learning from experiments.
  • Foster an open communication style facilitating collaboration and sharing.
  • Provide governance based upon long-term business value and adaptation.
  • Their members seek mastery in their respective skills.

Agile Organizations & Bureaucracy

There are several important differences between the Agile Organization and the traditional bureaucratic organization. The most prominent is the Agile Organization’s use of fluid role definitions that support dynamic decision-making structures. Unlike the rigid hierarchies characterizing traditional bureaucracies, organizational structures within Agile Organizations are more likely to fluidly adapt to changing business conditions into structures that support the current direction and any emergent opportunity.

Likewise, Agile Organizations do not follow the concept of sustained competitive advantage that typifies the average bureaucratic organization. Operating in hyper-competitive, continuously changing markets, Agile Organizations pursue a series of temporary competitive advantages—capitalizing for a time on the strength of an idea, product, or service then readily discarding it when no longer viable.

Lastly, the Agile Organization are typically populated with employees pursuing serial incompetence they work hard to obtain a certain level of proficiency in one area but are driven to move on to the next “new” area to develop expertise. There are typically no “Subject-Matter Experts” focusing in one topical or functional area, as found typically in a traditional business bureaucracy.


Agility does more than allow companies to adapt. It makes them adaptable and proactively nimble as part of their corporate culture. Agile adopted organizations focus on the ability and capacity to quickly identify and understand threats, risks, and opportunities and design and  implement changes, both incremental and discontinuously, as well as the ability to verify the contribution of execution to performance.

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