Why building organizational agility is now a strategic imperative for businesses

Published May 24, 2022

“Change is hard. Stepping out of what we know into something we don’t—that’s hard. And charging with courage toward an unknown future state—that’s hard.”

Prosci’s Tim Creasey has spent two decades researching how businesses can achieve better results by engaging their people when it comes to change. As he explained during his talk at Pendo’s Guide: The Digital Adoption Summit, “Change, like a coin, has two sides. There’s always a technical side and a people side of every change we try to bring about in our organization.” Unfortunately, the former often takes precedence over the latter, which creates serious hurdles to driving real transformation. 

“On the technical side, we document and optimize critical processes, but we have to get our people to follow them. We can announce a new mindset for growth, but we have to get our people to embrace and demonstrate those behaviors. We can develop the most amazing new enabling technology, but if we can’t get our people to use it, it doesn’t matter if the buttons work,” Creasey said. 

So how can businesses best ensure that they don’t leave their people behind on the change journey? It starts with cultivating organizational agility. 

Agility drives stability

There are many ways to define agility, and Creasey covered a swath of them in his talk. There’s an element of moving quickly. There’s a sense of being attuned to one’s environment and how it’s evolving. There’s the idea that agility encompasses both planned and unexpected changes, and that it involves paying attention to the right things to glean the right insights. 

In his talk, Creasey argued that agility is not a matter of reacting haphazardly to whatever new development pops up. Instead, it’s both anticipatory and in reaction to something. Real agility “has as its foundation the stability upon which we can react to, respond to, and seize the things in front of us.” In that sense, agility is not something that companies can “rent” the way they can with other capabilities. It’s either part of who they are, or it isn’t. And it’s increasingly the factor that determines how well a company navigates the people side of change.  

Leverage agility to drive digital adoption 

“What we find in our research,” Creasey said, “is there is a direct correlation between how well we manage the people side of change and whether or not we meet objectives on time and on budget.” After all, a technology or new way of working, no matter how great, will only ultimately be effective if people adopt it, feel comfortable with it, and derive value from it. “Without adoption and usage, off falls value, off falls solution success, off falls retention.”

Creasey explained that the entire field of change management in some sense has its roots in this very problem—dating back decades. “At the end of the 90s, as we were rolling around in capital and really excited about all the technological possibilities, we would put $25 million into a technology solution, flip the switch, and get 1.5% user adoption,” Creasey said. “That doesn’t create the value we expect and need.” 

To realize the ROI on a project, companies need to cultivate agility among their employees, many of whom will need to change the ways they do their jobs and that is where a change management process is key. If not, Creasey warned, “ROI” changes from “return on investment” to “risk of indifference.” 

“When we leave the people side of change to chance—sending an email on Monday for training on Tuesday and go-live on Wednesday—and put all our effort into wishing and hoping adoption and usage will happen, that’s the risk of indifference. And we know that creates failure and frustration and confusion within the organization,” he cautioned. 

Instead, Creasey encouraged companies to lean into organizational agility and empower their teams to embrace and meet change head-on. “Given the conditions today and the future of work and change driving adoption and usage, helping our people by preparing, equipping, and supporting them for changes we’re asking them to make is going to be essential.”

To learn more about how Pendo Adopt can help your company cultivate agility, schedule a custom demo today.