I remember when the word "agility" for me was nothing but a sport disciplin for dogs. It was (and probably still is) a big craze for people with super active dogs to a) give the dog the required excersise with a fun element and b) to join a a club for socialising and competition.
But agility as a dog sport is not as trivial as you may think, because although the dog does most of the activities, the dog handler plays a very important role too. The official website hounddogsdrule.com exlpain it as follows: "Dog agility is a sport in which a handler directs a dog through an obstacle course in a race for both time and accuracy. Dogs run off-leash with no food or toys as incentives, and the handler can touch neither dog nor obstacles. Consequently the handler’s controls are limited to voice, movement, and various body signals, requiring exceptional training of the animal and coordination of the handler."
The handler of the dog is clearly in no position to have total control over the dog. To be successful, they must work together as a team, based on a trusting relationship. In order to be accurate and fast, the dog handler must react to every situation on the field within split seconds, any change of plan must immediately be dealt with and instructions to the dog must be given based completely on the actual situation on the field. Instructions must be as little as necessary, as any overload will confuse the dog and slow it down.
Reading more and more about how agility is catching on in business environments, I find it very interesting to see that, not all that different from the dog sport, being a top contender in business agility relies on two simple, but vital components: being a team and having a trusting relationship between team members.
In fact, one of the 12 key principles behind the Agile Manifesto is "Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done."
Successful team members of agile teams do not just work for incentives like money or fringe benefits. They deliver excellent work because they feel empowered, knowing that their expertise is highly appreciated and valuable to the other team members. They also appreciate and value the expertise of their team colleagues. But most of all, the team members trust each other. Mistakes are no reason to get upset with each other, change is a constant variable and reacting to change might be challenging, but doing it together makes it the essence of accomplishing a mission together. And feeling proud, when it's done.
To implement agility in your business, check the state of your corporate culture. How is your culture defined? What drives your culture? Does your organisation foster a culture where employees are empowered to make decisions, where mistakes are handled as a natural bi-product of peoples best efforts to getting it right? Does it allow people to be honest, think and speak about ideas which they believe might help improve or solve a challenging situation? Is the welfare of your employees your top priority? If so, there's no doubt you are one of the top contenders for any obstacle course. Not quite the culture your organisation inhabits? Well, it's never too late to change......
The Fine Art of Agility - creating a business culture which empowers employees to run through any business obstacle course at high speed and accuracy, learning from each course result in retroperspective, making the team stronger, faster and more accurate for every new obstacle course ahead.