Create the Capability to Change

We are delighted to feature our colleague Anita Bhasin, Founder and CEO of Sageways Consultingon one of her favorite topics, and ours, AGILITY!

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change. – Charles Darwin

Constant Change is the New Normal

If you’re of a certain age, you may remember rotary-dial phones, anchored to the wall by a cord. Then there were push buttons. Then cordless. Then mobile. Then touch-screen. And so on. What’s remarkable about this isn’t so much that technology marches on; it’s that the intervals between changes are getting smaller and smaller.

The same goes for business shifts—accelerating change is reshaping the world in ways we would never have imagined. Change no longer comes in cycles; it’s a constant state. A new normal. And managing it requires a new way of thinking about organizations, and the people who lead them.

There are still managers who strive to run well-oiled machines—swapping out parts, and tinkering with mechanisms. But the new normal requires a different mindset, because machines can only be repaired or replaced; they can’t evolve or develop.

Adaptable Organizations Are Successful Organizations

At Sage Ways, we think a better metaphor for business is the natural world, and the living systems described by Charles Darwin. In these ecosystems, only the adaptable successfully navigate change; they do this by transforming both themselves and their environment, leading to a rebalancing, and a newly learned resilience.

The same holds true in a business ecosystem—success comes to those able to make adjustments to business models, strategies, or leadership within the evolving structure of the system. Success comes to those with the capability to change. We think of this capability as agility.

We’ve found that while many organizations are adept at operational change—aka Change Management, or tuning the machine—most give little attention to the people side of the business, or to the layers of complexity in an ecosystem model. Our core belief is that people are the key to transforming businesses amidst rapid change.

People and teams in organizations must create a dynamic capability to change, so that they can adapt to today’s ever-increasing demands and complexities with ease and creativity. We think of this capability to change as agility.

Agility Can Be Learned. Here’s How.

In an ecosystem, the most prolific rate of change takes place on the fringes, or what scientists call the “verge”. It’s where no single species dominates, and change is constant—like the ocean’s intertidal zone, or the boundary between forest and savanna.

While organisms at the heart of dominant environments enjoy some amount of stability, those on the verge have learned agility: they’ve learned to adapt. Verges exist in business ecosystems too, in the zone where individual leaders and their organizations converge and interact. We believe that effective organizational change can’t last without conscious work on both fronts.

Agility requires blending both talent development and organizational change at this verge—this environment primed for learning—where leaders learn agility, then help create the capability across their organizations.

-Anita Bhasin

Anita is the founder and CEO of Sage Ways. Sage Ways agility solutions combine deep personal change with proven organizational development methods. We help leaders understand where they are in their own journey of growth and integrate personal leadership work with organizational best practices. Connect with Anita at anita@sagewaysconsulting.com.

Moe Carrick