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TD Magazine Article

Agility Is Prized but Elusive

Employees want to get more work done faster, but organizations may not be able to deliver.


Mon Jul 01 2024

Agility Is Prized but Elusive

Tune into the Westminster Kennel Club agility competition, and you'll witness dogs and their handlers working to beat the clock while navigating obstacles such as jumps, weave poles, tunnels, and A-frames. When participants perform well, it's an awe-inspiring demonstration of speed, precision, concentration, flexibility, and teamwork.

In the business world, agility is also a valuable trait for individuals' chances of success—and survival. But most employees wouldn't dare enter their organization into a business agility contest. In fact, only 18 percent of US employees rate their company as being agile, according to a Gallup study titled "In Search of Agility."


Despite knowing the need to anticipate and adapt to change, organizations and their employees face sticky problems in achieving those goals. Unaligned priorities, unclear ownership over decision making, and a fear of failure, says Gallup, all collide to prevent staff from getting work done faster.

Noting year-over-year declines in performance across a range of organizational capabilities and behaviors, data from the Business Agility Institute's Business Agility Report 2023 confirms impediments to agile work as roadblocks for productivity. For example, organizational scores for "act as one" (operating with the mindset of a single aligned team) and "empower with accountability" (enabling customer-facing employees to make decisions) declined 8 percent and 3 percent, respectively, since 2022.

Reduced cross-functional collaboration is another factor, says Gallup, with more teams setting business priorities in isolation. That culture becomes a problem when employees have more work than they have the capacity to handle, and, as Ed O'Boyle, global practice leader for Gallup's workplace and marketplace consulting states, "one person's number one priority is another's number 10; that person's number one is another's number 10."

If businesses hope to emulate the success of Truant, the 2023 Masters Agility Champion border collie, they should enable "aligned priorities across roles, teammates empowered to make decisions, and real-time adjustments made in response to changing conditions," O'Boyle remarks. Meanwhile, the Business Agility Report 2023 encourages companies to start with leadership: "With the right mindset and associated organizational support, leaders set the tone for the entire organization."

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July 2024 - TD Magazine

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