About Agility Theory

To begin, we need to establish what we mean by ‘theory’. When some people hear the word ‘theory’ they think it means something that is not true or might be true but nobody really knows. In their mind, a theory is different from a fact. But that is not how we are using the word ‘theory’.

When we use the word ‘theory’ we mean that it is an explanation of reality. A theory describes ‘facts’ and explain why these facts are the way they are. So, an agility theory is an attempt to explain how agility works and why agility leads to greater success.

3 Components of Agility

Agility has 3 components, which means that the word ‘agility’ is emergent or a high-level concept. The 3 components of agility are The Success Pattern, Personal Change Fitness, and Organisational Change Readiness. As these 3 components work together in increasing levels of harmony, agility grows.

This page focuses on agility theory. To understand how any of this helps you identify whether an organisation is ready to change, click here.

The Success Pattern™

The Success Pattern is a pattern of behaviours that humans follow when they successfully make changes. ‘The Success Pattern’ is our name for the Transtheoretical Model of Change, originally developed by Prochaska and DiClemente in the 1970s and 1980s.

However, we should understand that The Success Pattern is very much about human behaviour. People refer to it as the change process and we could be fooled into thinking that there is something out there in the environment called ‘change’ and this is how it works. No, it is not how change works. It is how people behave when they successfully make changes. 

There are 5 steps in this behavioural pattern and to succeed at change, we must succeed at each step. Is that easy to do? Often the answer is ‘no’. Why is it not easy?

Because change means learning new ways of behaving, new ways of thinking, acquiring or creating new knowledge, and letting go of behaviours and knowledge we used to rely on.

Personal Change Fitness

Change requires learning. If we already have the knowledge and skills required for success, the changes may not be hard to make. But the more we have to learn (and unlearn), the more difficult the task will be.

Difficult changes require significant amounts of new knowledge and new skills – new learning and unlearning. We need to gain this new knowledge and skills so we can succeed at each step of The Success Pattern. This is how we make progress with change.

To gain new knowledge and skills and to let go of less adaptive knowledge requires more than IQ. It requires a specific set of psychological resources called ‘personal change fitness’. These are enabling resources because they make learning (and unlearning) easier.

There are 7 of these resources, or change fitness factors. These factors can be measured and we have a specialised tool to do that.

The point is that the more change fitness a person has, the easier it will be for that person to create or acquire the knowledge and skills they need to succeed at each step of The Success Pattern.

Organisational Change Readiness

So far we have seen that there is a Success Pattern that humans follow when they are successful at change. People need to be successful at each step of this process. To succeed at each step requires the right kind of knowledge and skills. People who do not already possess the requisite knowledge and skills must acquire them if they are to succeed. This requires learning (and unlearning). To facilitate learning and unlearning, a set of psychological resources called ‘personal change fitness’ is required. People with higher levels of change fitness cope better with the learning process, find it easier to acquire or create new knowledge, and therefore are more successful at each step of The Success Pattern. 

But none of this happens in a vacuum. It all happens within one or more contexts. These contexts include workplaces, families, social groups, nations, and historical periods. The nature of these contexts influences how easy or difficult it is for a person to learn and unlearn the requisite knowledge and skills and, therefore, their capacity to succeed at each step of The Success Pattern.

Within the organisational (or business) context, there are 3 elements that exert a particularly strong influence over change outcomes. The organisation is not ready for change unless these 3 elements are working in harmony to support people as they navigate the 5 steps of The Success Pattern.

The Agile Organisation

Agile organisations are aware of and promote The Success Pattern. They value and actively seek to increase the personal change fitness of their leaders, managers, and employees. And they shape the organisational context so it strengthens change readiness.

If you want to create an agile organisation, click on the button below.