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Coordinated Agility | The Art Of Moving Together

Enabling individuals and teams to break down silos, build greater transparency, empathy and context.

by Rich Price

It’s called murmuration — the mesmerizing sight of a giant flock of starlings as they begin to roost in the evenings. The flock, thousands of individuals, moves with incredible coordination, remarkable precision, speed, agility, grace and appear to fly as one organism. The flock shape shits, splits into groups then converges again, moving at speeds of up to 50 miles per hour.

This is coordinated agility. 

What can we learn in this business world from this remarkable display from the world of nature? Unlike flocks of starlings that are leaderless and follow no plan, most good businesses, of course, have leaders, as well as plans. Scientists believe the movements are coordinated by starlings observing what others around them are doing. The birds in the middle of the flock appear to be able see through the flock on all sides and track the movements of the collective. By creating virtual murmurations using rules that birds might follow in a flock, the scientists were able to theorize that each bird keeps track of seven neighbors in the flock and adjusts their movements accordingly to keep the flock from crashing into itself and falling apart.

This too is a useful insight. When we consider the corollary in the chaos of a company’s daily movements, it’s highly useful to have vision from within the “flock” to its edges, and have a sense of the key movements of a small group of interdependents.

The “Agile mindset” revolution in business has transformed the way many companies work. In the past 20 years, it has become what Forbes describes as “a Copernican revolution in management.” At its core, “Agile” champions a mindset that involves working at pace, flexibility, frictionless collaboration and growth and learning. It’s the opposite of a bureaucratic mindset. In describing the perils of bureaucracy, Gary Hamel writes in the Harvard Business Review, ​​“Strategy gets set at the top. Power trickles down. Big leaders appoint little leaders. Individuals compete for promotion. Compensation correlates with rank. Tasks are assigned. Managers assess performance. Rules tightly circumscribe discretion.” In an agile organization, team members are encouraged to “think like an entrepreneur,” “fail forward,” “move with pace,” “test, iterate, validate.” 

As transformative as “Agile” has been as a mindset in modern business, that approach can be full of peril without sophisticated coordination. “Coordinated Agility,” then, is about enabling individuals and teams to break down silos, build greater transparency, empathy and context. The goal is to move with speed and agility but to shapeshift as one.

We see the 3 C’s as the key ingredients to coordinated agility — clarity (strategy, mission, context), coordination (visibility, collaboration, communication) and conviction (energy, belief and inspiration).

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