September 2012

Creating Organizational Agility: Formula for CHANGE

By Tom O'Shea, CMC



The business literature and popular press are overflowing with announcements that our world is CHANGING in radical ways almost on a daily basis.  Most folks are almost numb to this message by now due in part to a modern day "learned helplessness" feeling from our inability to control the forces of change in our lives as well as a deep uncertainty about understanding what we can do to adapt and thrive in this era of rampant change. Martin Seligman and Steve Meier conducted the research and coined the term "learned helplessness" back in the early 1970's at the University of Pennsylvania and we continue to see evidence of this syndrome permeating various individuals, organizations and, to some extent, even our country for some periods of time over the past ten years. Seligman's experiments involved teaching laboratory rats to run from one side of a maze to the other in order to find their food. Over time, Seligman's research assistants began introducing "change" into the equation in the form of intermittent electrical shock into the thimbles of food at either end of the maze. >> READ MORE 

Agility Consulting Partners with Rollins College, 

Master of Human Resources Program (MHR)

By:  Dr. Nick Horney, Ph.D.


The following is based on an interview with Dr. Robert K. Prescott, Associate Professor of Management at Rollins College, ( in Winter Park, Florida. Professor Prescott has designed and is conducting a graduate course in the Fall of 2012 for Human Resource Professionals entitled, Human Resources Agility.  He will be joined in the delivery of the course by Ms. Nancy Tallent, VP, HR Reyes Beverage Group at Reyes Holdings. 


Nick: Tell us about why you developed a graduate course in HR Agility? 


Dr. Prescott:  Speed, fitness, flexibility, nimbleness, resilience ... words more often used to describe a world class athlete rather than a business organization.  Yet, modern organizations are required to be agile in order to survive and thrive.  The challenge is that these words seldom characterize our HR departments or staff.  In fact, many of the policies and processes that are developed and/or "owned" by the Human Resources Department are often more bureaucratic than agile.  In fact, some of the processes in HR, such as, performance management, talent management, team development, etc. do more to ensure that an organization is fragile than helping develop agile leaders and an agile organization.  Therefore, we have designed this course to take a close look at HR programs, policies, procedures and processes through the lens of The Agile Model introduced by Agility Consulting.


Nick:  How will you apply The Agile Model in your course?


Dr. Prescott:  The Agile Model is the cornerstone for the course. There are five key organizational characteristics that distinguish an agile HR function.   The ability of its associated policies, programs and processes to:

      • Anticipate Change 
      • Generate Confidence
      • Initiate Action
      • Liberate Thinking
      • Evaluate Results

Taken to the next level of true business partnership, the creation of an agile HR function ensures operational alignment between the various processes of HR and with the multiple functions of business operations, thus enhancing the potential for a realistic and results-oriented business partnership.


Focusing the efforts of HR on the specific needs of the business is essential.  Taking specific actions in the areas of talent management, performance management, outplacement/downsizing, leadership development, team development, and employee engagement in agile ways can lead to sustained results in turbulent times. The course will include dialogue around how taking targeted actions in these areas can drive potentially greater results and support overall business strategy.


Nick:  What will HR Professionals learn from participating in this course?


Dr. Prescott: Our course objectives include the following:

  • Define and understand a comprehensive body of knowledge of agility;
  • Understand the trends, challenges and necessary requirements for creating agile organizations;
  • Develop a comprehensive knowledge as to the role of HR in fostering the agile process;
  • Gain a precise understanding of the specific dimensions of agility;
  • Focus on the HR practices/processes that drive agility for organizations;
  • Utilize current literature from research to target thinking and recommendations for action in driving agile HR functioning;
  • Demonstrate learning by conducting and preparing video interviews of external based HR executives on the various dimensions of agility;
  • Demonstrate learning by delivering various class-based activities (reading presentations, article analysis, discussion boards, and class discussions, etc.) where key learning points are articulated.

However, beyond these worthy academic objectives our hope is that students are able to assure their learning by applying concepts learned in class to "real-life" work situations.


Nick:  I understand that part of the course includes the design and production of a brief video on HR Agility featuring Human Resource Executives from some key organizations.  Tell us more about these brief videos.


Dr. Prescott:  Students will be divided up into small teams and assigned the task of designing and producing a short 5-7 minute video interview related to one of the five Agility Dimensions.  Interviews will be conducted with a senior-level HR professional who has been identified by the team or one assigned by the course instructor.    The student team will design the interview format and questioning related to the content of the interview and gain approval by the instructor prior to the actual interview taking place.  Students will be responsible for coordinating interview schedules and production resources with the interviewee. Final versions of the interview will be viewed in-class with a general group discussion to follow in identifying key points of learning by the team.


Nick:  How can interested HR Professionals find out more about the course?


Dr. Prescott:  Contacting me directly at Rollins College is the most "agile" way.  My email address is


Nick: Thanks Bob, for taking the time to share information about this new and innovative graduate course at Rollins College.

Read & See More from Others About-Creating Agility in a VUCA World!



Nick Horney,  Ph.D., Principal



Tom O'Shea, CMC, Principal



Agility Consulting & Training, LLC

1901 Rosevilla Lane - Greensboro, NC 27455