Solving Your Agility Issues with the Right Training

June 30, 2022
June 30, 2022 Jamie Notter

We’ve all gone through so much change in the last two years that people now refuse to use the word “pivot” in just about any context. It’s quite interesting, actually, because organizational agility is something we’ve been tracking in our culture assessment for several years now, and pre-pandemic it was literally the lowest-scoring culture marker of the 8 we measure, meaning it was LESS present in cultures compared to things like collaboration or even inclusion.

I think this helps explain at least part of the massive burnout problem we have. We were forced to be agile even though our cultures weren’t very good at it, and we made up for that simply by working harder and longer. This is not sustainable. The need for agility is not going away, so I encourage organizations to change their culture around agility and change, otherwise the burnout will get worse.

Interestingly, I have found one of the best ways to develop your culture around agility is to train your people in how to manage their conflict and work through difficult conversations. I started my career in the conflict resolution field, so this is a bias of mine, but our assessment data supports it as well. One of the strongest correlations between any two rating statements in our assessment is for these two:

  • We embrace change as an organization
  • We confront and handle our internal conflict when we need to
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In other words, cultures that embrace change a lot also tend to handle their conflict effectively. This makes sense, because change always generates at least some friction, since there was a reason that the status quo became the status quo in the first place. That means to do change quickly and effectively, you need to address and resolve those disagreements and tough conversations. Most organizations, however, don’t. They let conflicts linger or, more frequently, they only resolve them half way, which means details get overlooked, key people don’t get informed or consulted, and effort is duplicated or your people are rowing in two different directions. This is why change is so exhausting.

We offer an online conflict resolution training that you can do as an individual or as a virtual workshop for your whole team. I’d also look at other tactical training content, like project management or using the RACI model for decision making roles. These types of training help with agility more than something that is focused on “change management” in my opinion. I don’t think resistance to change is the issue—it’s the ability to understand, resolve, decide, and act more quickly. Build your internal capacity for that, and you’ll get better at agility (and reduce burnout).

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So from a culture change perspective, it works like this:

  • Culture problem: We can’t keep up with the page, or when we do, we end up exhausted and burned out.
  • Relevant culture pattern: Heavy Agility (our culture values forward action more than it values effective action)
  • Culture solution: train your people in conflict resolution (and maybe project management and decision making)
  • Results: better speed and agility, improved morale.

Note: this post is the first in a new series on “Culture Solutions,” where we identify specific culture change action items that real clients have used to solve real problems in their organization.

Jamie Notter

Jamie is an author and growth strategist at PROPEL, where he helps leaders integrate culture, strategy, and execution to achieve breakthrough performance and impact. He brings twenty-five years of experience to his work designing culture-driven businesses, and has specialized along the way in areas like conflict resolution and generations. Jamie is also the co-author of three books—Humanize, When Millennials Take Over, and The Non-Obvious Guide to Employee Engagement—and holds a Master’s in conflict resolution from George Mason and a certificate in Organization Development from Georgetown, where he serves as adjunct faculty.
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