Agility: A book review by Bob Morris

Agility: How to Navigate the Unknown and Seize Opportunity in a World of Disruption
Leo M. Tilman and General Charles Jacoby
Missionday (October 2019)

Here’s how to identify, assess, and then respond to severe marketplace disruption with high-impact

However different they may be in most respects, companies annually ranked among those most highly admired and best to work for are also annually ranked among those that are most profitable, with the greatest cap value. Another common denominator is that they have leaders who “move with the speed of relevance” and employees who “move with the speed of the [given] challenge.”

Leo M. Tilman and General Charles Jacoby define agility as the organizational capacity “to effectively detect, assess and respond to environmental changes in ways that are purposeful, decisive and grounded in the will to win.”  In the business world, for example, that capacity is essential in a global environment that has become more volatile, more uncertain, more complex, and more ambiguous than at any prior time that I can recall.

Organizations that lack agility tend to have become hostage to what James O’Toole so aptly characterizes — in Leading Change — as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.” In 1859, Charles Darwin suggested that “it is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives, but the species that survives is the one that is able to adapt to and to adjust best to the changing environment in which it finds itself.” More recently, in Future Shock (1984), this is precisely what Alvin Toffler has in mind when making this prediction: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

Tilman and Jacoby wrote this book to prepare leaders in any organization — whatever its size and nature may be — “to effectively detect, assess and respond to environmental changes in ways that are purposeful, decisive and grounded in the will to win.”

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Tilman and Jacoby’s coverage:

o Developing the Framework for Agility (Pages 9-12)
o The Process, the Pillars and the Setting of Agility (13-170
o Accelerating Change (21-22)
o The Antithesis of Agility (25-26)
o Risk Intelligence (49-51)

o The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster (64-65)
o Organizations as Portfolios of Risks (68-72)
o Business Models through the Prism of Risk (75-78)
o Corporate Responses to Change (85-87)
o The Risk Levers of Agility (104-107)

o Two Modes of the Agility Process (107-109)
o Top Brain, Bottom Brain (116-120)
o Boundaries of Initiative (122-123)
o Why Some Flat Organizations Succeed and Others Don’t (133-135)
o Senior Leader Business (142-146)

o The Agility Setting (152-157)
o Levers of Agility (164-167)
o The Need for a Holistic Approach (167-171)
o Planning for Agility (179-183)
o Tactical Agility in the Face of Adversity (189-192)

These are among Tilman and Jacoby’s concluding thoughts:

“The fog and friction. of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, persistent geopolitical and social conflict, and an arms race of new technologies are just the modern reincarnations of the challenges that have fueled the humanity’s enduring search for agility. As we navigate these powerful forces — and contend with the hedgerows of modernity that upend the most brilliant of plans — any organization and leader can become better positioned to seize the unprecedented possibilities of this new age by investing in agility.”

Most of the information, insights, and counsel needed to anticipate and then respond effectively to the other unique challenges “of this new age ” is proved by Leo Tilman and Charles Jacoby in their brilliant book. Bravo!

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