Agility Scales

Agility Scales take a specific topic or decision area and illustrate that there is a range of decision-making options. These options range from purely hierarchical (management-driven) decisions to purely networked (employee-driven) decisions.

Understanding Agility Scales

In many organizations with a hierarchical management style, decision-making tends to be performed in a slow and bureaucratic manner by the chosen few. In this context, efficiency could be improved by involving employees in important decisions regarding purpose and strategy.

However, it would be unwise to suggest that management should delegate all decision-making to their subordinates. Indeed, employees who work without direction and make decisions without relevant experience also contribute to inefficiency within a business.

This begs the question: which decisions should be management driven and which should be driven by employees? 

Core components of Agility Scales

Agility Scales work on the assumption that a balance must be struck between:

  • The centralized decision-making of management, favors specialization, exploitation, efficiency, and hierarchy. 
  • The de-centralized decision-making of employees favors generalization, exploration, networking, and effectivity.

This balance is highly contextual. It is specific to the needs of the business or more accurately, to the needs of individual teams or departments within the business

Defining context for Agility Scales

To successfully respond to change, the business must first understand the context in which change needs to be made. 

If the change requires a general increase in effectivity, then employees or project teams should delegate fewer decisions to upper management. However, if the context calls for more efficiency or specialist advice, upper management should take on most of the decision-making responsibility. 

In some contexts, a blend of each form of decision-making and its inherent qualities will be required. What’s important is that the business is consistently moving between each end of the spectrum. 

Ultimately, this helps an organization develop agile and innovative principles and characteristics.

Specific applications of Agility Scales

Agility Scales can be used in many different business contexts:

  1. The formation of teams, groups, business units, or departments. How are these teams formed? Who takes initiative for team creation and who decides when a team has been finalized? How much autonomy do these teams have?
  2. Leadership. Will the leader be responsible for the actions of a group and be directly accountable to superiors? Alternatively, will individual team members assume leadership responsibilities when required without a formal title or interference from higher up?
  3. Purpose. Is the purpose of the organization clearly defined, with all employees required to work toward a singular goal? Or are individuals given freedom and flexibility to work toward a goal or purpose they have designated for themselves?
  4. Boundaries. This context describes the point where the work of one team ends and the work of another team begins. For example, who approves the installation or purchase of new tools or equipment? Which team will focus on iOS, and which will focus on Android? Who will decide if the regional sales team needs to be expanded or reduced because of urban sprawl?

Key takeaways:

  • Agility Scales encompass decision-making options ranging from purely hierarchical (management driven) to purely networked (employee-driven) decisions. 
  • Agility Scales help a business respond to change in an agile fashion by continuously moving along a spectrum according to the context of change itself.
  • Agility Scales are useful in a variety of contexts, including team formation, leadership, boundary setting, and purpose.
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