There have been very few instances in humanity's existence where the global need for agility is higher than what it has been in the past six months. This is at both a personal and organizational level.
In fact, for this article, let’s consider agility at a personal level.
Could we say that “agility” is a quality or characteristic? If so, it seems to be something we should measure and value similar to other personal qualities and characteristics.
For example, consider intelligence quotient (IQ) and emotional intelligence (EQ). Both of these are measured amounts of how much intelligence or emotional intelligence a person has, respectively.
I believe that one’s agility is a quality and characteristic of great value. Thus, we should understand, value, and know-how to assess one’s agility quotient (AQ), or one’s ability to swiftly adapt to the changing needs of customers, employees, and the marketplace.
Why is AQ Needed?
The rate of change is faster than ever. Disruption of organizations and industries is increasingly occurring.
In fact, there are three rapidly increasing phenomena that all organizations are facing:
- Increasing competition
- Decreasing or compressed product life cycles
- Rapidly changing customer interests and needs
Together, this means that if organizations want to stay viable in the long run, they need the ability to adapt and pivot. And, in order for that to happen, organizations need individual employees that have the ability to quickly adapt and pivot: a high agility quotient.
Low versus High Agility Quotient
What sets apart someone with a high agility quotient from someone with a low agility quotient?
At a basic level, someone with low AQ is someone who values certainty, consistency, and comfort. Often, the reason why individuals might possess such values is because they are focused on what is best and comfortable for them: a sense of safety and security.
Someone with high AQ is someone who values learning, alternative perspectives, and personal disruption. Often, the reason why individuals might possess these values is because they are more concerned about (1) providing what is best for the customer, and (2) doing what is best for the long-term success for the organization, over and above a concern of what is best for themselves.
I think a great example of an organization that has helped employees make a significant positive shift in their AQ is Microsoft.
When Satya Nadella took over as CEO, he found that Microsoft employees needed to be the smartest people in the room, which meant a lot of jockeying for power and position and an inability to be wrong and see different perspectives. They were more focused on ensuring stability for themselves than adapting to ensure value for their customers.
As Satya Nadella set out to work on cultural change within Microsoft to become more agile, he promoted the idea that instead of being “know-it-alls,” they needed to become “learn-it-alls.”
And, to promote this shift, he encouraged employees to meet more and more with their customers at their customer’s locations. They were to identify what needs they had and ways in which their products were falling short of what they needed.
A natural byproduct of this is that Microsoft employees were coming back from meeting with their employees having learned something new, seeing a new perspective, and a willingness to disrupt themselves and what they were doing in order to better meet the needs and demands of their customers.
The result of this has been a four-fold increase in market capitalization and stock price since Satya Nadella took over in 2004. It has been an incredible transformation!
Improving Agility Quotient in Your Organization
How do you take employees from having a low agility quotient to having a high agility quotient? At a foundational level, we have got to recognize that the difference between such individuals isn’t a difference in skill or ability, it is a difference in how they see and perceive their world around them. It is a difference in their mindsets.
Mindsets: The Key to Agility
There is a lot of information “out there” on mindsets. But, most of this information fails to identify specific mindsets necessary for agility.
After scouring decades of research in a wide variety of disciplines. I have found that there are four sets of mindsets that have received 30+ years of research attention demonstrating that they influence how individuals think, learn, and behave (i.e., how agile they are). Each of these sets range on a continuum from less agile to more agile.
The table below demonstrates what research has found related to how these different mindsets affect how agile individuals are.
What is Your Agility Quotient?
Does this give you a sense of your personal AQ level? Are there areas where you could improve in your AQ?
What about your organization? Does your organization’s workforce have the collective mindsets that fuel agility?
In my research, I have found that only 5% of people are in the top quartile for all four sets of mindsets. Also, I have assessed the mindsets of over 60 organizations and groups, and I have only found a handful that have two or more collective mindsets on the “high agility” side of the continuum.
Improving Your and Your Workforce’s AQ
If you want to become more agile, or if you want to improve your workforce’s agility, you are going to have to, at a fundamental level, shift how you and they see their world. In other words, you are going to have to focus on mindsets.