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How to achieve organizational agility

February 10, 2023
Catherine-Julie Charette
How to achieve organizational agility

Disengagement, high turnover, dissatisfied employees, etc. are all symptoms that point to the need to review the organizational structure to restore meaning, promote employee well-being and achieve business objectives.

Catherine-Julie Charette tells us more about organizational agility and how to implement new management practices.

Why choose organizational agility

Organizational agility helps deliver a better customer experience, improve productivity, foster employee engagement (more details in the graphic below)... and also thrive in a changing, complex and uncertain environment.

Organizational agility benefits

(source Business Agility Report 2022)

An environment made volatile, in large part, by technological developments, the great resignation movement, the coming recession, climate change and conflicts. Let's not forget the disappearance of some giants that were thought to be infallible: Kodak or BlackBerry, to name but a few. In short, few companies can look forward to the next five years without questioning their sustainability.

It is time for them to favor an approach that challenges the purely hierarchical and bureaucratic aspect, in favor of agility, which is characterized by :

  • A flexible structure
  • Rethinking meetings
  • Distributed and shared leadership
  • Individual and team autonomy
  • More inclusive decision-making processes

Regardless of the industry and size of the company.

What are the steps towards agility in the organization

The starting point, according to some managers who have made the shift in their organizations, is to :

  • Start by listening to employees before wanting to be listened to.
  • To understand them well and then define a shared vision, in which everyone is a stakeholder.
  • This leads to a change of environment and culture, which is conducive to the emergence of self-managed teams.
  • Provided we remain vigilant not to fall back into old habits.

These arrangements encourage employees to speak up and get involved, and allow solutions and ideas to emerge.

In short, it is a matter of changing the traditional and hierarchical model where the "boss" controls and imposes (a kind of parent-child relationship), in favor of a participative, engaging and empowering approach (adult-to-adult relationship).

This is easier said than done, because as one climbs the hierarchy one also tends to lose empathy (source). The manager should therefore not hesitate to do a self-diagnosis to make sure that he or she is not himself or herself an obstacle to agility, being convinced that he or she has all the right answers.

Organizational agility and well-being at work

According to the WHO, well-being at work is defined as follows: "A state of mind characterized by a satisfactory harmony between the abilities, needs and aspirations of the worker on the one hand and the constraints and opportunities of the work environment on the other." Here are some principles of agile organizations that contribute to well-being:


Simplify organizations to reconnect employees to goals, customers, etc. This can include reducing the number of meetings, simplifying processes, reducing rules and procedures, reducing the number of templates and approvals...


Empowering people so that they feel the usefulness of their role and the control they have over it (especially on "how" to do tasks - planning, organizing work for example). Prefer the obligation of results to the obligation of means, which encourages learning and improvement. Radio Canada reported on a significant case in this regard and the benefits obtained by this company in a few weeks!


A thought from Simon Sinek sums up the vision of leadership in agile organizations: "When we ask people to do their work, we get workers. When we trust people to do the work, we get leaders." Agile organizations share and develop leadership.


When the vision and mission are known, understood and shared we can empower because these statements serve as a framework for making choices, prioritizing, etc. Meaning is also about being socially and environmentally responsible. Giving meaning helps answer the question "Why do I get up in the morning?


Openness is both diversity and the ability to explore other ways of thinking and working, to allow the best ideas to emerge and for everyone to feel recognized for who they are. Openness is inclusive, diverse, intercultural and intergenerational.


It is a fundamental need to learn in order to become better, more confident and more comfortable in one's roles. Agile organizations are true learning organizations.


Based on the principle that the environment is volatile, uncertain, complex, chaotic and ambiguous (VICCA), the survival of the company depends on its ability to break down silos and generate collaboration and innovation. This requires synergy, cohesion and team building.


Recognition is good for both the person who gives it and the person who receives it. It gratifies both the work done and the person himself! Don't hesitate to use these phrases to emphasize it: You did a good job, I trust you, What do you need to succeed? Etc.


"Moving the project forward at a sustainable and consistent pace" is one of the principles of organizational agility. With the "great resignation" and lack of staff, balance should be a priority for organizations.


Communication can be very digital, at the expense of authenticity and collaboration. Better collaboration therefore involves being around each other (even outside of work) to get to know each other and work together, and then developing trusting relationships. It would even seem that trust in organizations contributes to lowering stress and the number of sick days (among other things) and to increasing productivity and commitment.

In conclusion

Organizational agility is about reducing controls and bureaucracy in favor of simplicity and organizational resilience, combined with an empowering approach based on trust. In this sense, organizational agility promotes well-being and helps employees follow their aspirations, while taking into account the organization's objectives. It is not an easy path, however. It requires awareness and commitment from management, who must embody agility and serve as a model for the rest of the organization to engage employees in change. Some organizations that start the shift to agility achieve benefits sometimes within a few months.
The challenge then is to maintain business performance through motivation rather than pressure.

To go further:

Agility: Promoting an Autonomous and Collaborative Organization

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