Does Rigidity Stifle Agility? By Natalie Dee

By Natalie Dee, Head of Programmes and Executive Coach, Quidnunc


Have you ever wondered “What’s the difference between ‘flexible working’ and ‘agile working’.”? Is there a difference or do we simply transpose the two?


I often get asked this question “Haven’t we just invented a new word for flexi-time?”


The definition of flexible working is now well recognised but the term agile working still appears more ambiguous.


The truth is they are similar, but not quite.


Agile Working


Is defined as a way of working in which an organisation empowers its people to work – where, when and how they choose – with maximum flexibility and minimum constraints. This enables them to them to optimise their performance and deliver optimum value and customer service.


Agile working offers a flexible and productive environment, and advancements in IT and communications have enabled this to happen.


A desire for agility in working has disrupted the workplace as we know it. These changes have been made across working spaces, working practices, location and facilitate global communications with ease.


Throughout this evolution we can still ensure delivery of our objectives, provide our service seamlessly with motivated participating employees.


Many forward-looking businesses employ such flexibility to encourage this new agility in work and have found it can attract a more diverse workforce. Many are happy to share their progress and highlight how and why it has improved working relations between employer and employee, even on a global basis.


The Additional Factor in Agile Working


Flexible working as two main aspects:


  • Time – a choice of hours worked, and
  • Location – where the work is undertaken, either office based, home based, in a leisure centre, club or even in the developing café society, with its promise of free Wi-Fi and a relaxing atmosphere in which to work


Agile working has both these aspects but also has a third element; it is this third element that differentiates the two terms. Agile working introduces the aspect of – autonomy.


This covers how we choose to do the work and how we set our goals, deliverables and deadlines within the company’s legal conditions and code of conduct.


So where does the ability to work in an agile way begin? It begins in the mind!


A Change in Mind-set


  • This can enable the development of an agile workforce
  • The description of the working culture and practice is not important: the transition is important
  • Making it happens begins in the mind


Moving your mind-set away from thinking traditional working in a permanent location, being employed from the rigid hours of 9-5, is not for everyone.


“When leadership is rigid in thought and behaviour the outcome you will have is a workforce that thinks with the mind of the master”  – anon


To think in an agile way starts with considering who you are and what your talents are. Your capability and ability to deliver what is expected of you when required is more important than where you do it.


If the mind-set is right and the motivation is intrinsic then agile working opportunities would suit you.


For some employees it provides them with the lifeline to find a career that works for them and includes them in the group that are a good fit for the job but may struggle to fulfil it through the traditional inflexible working hours and location restrictions.


With these restrictions imposed we lose a vast world of talent who want more freedom and mutual trust to deliver in the best way they can from where or how they choose.


So should those workers who choose not to follow these traditional working contracts be considered less trustworthy than those who are permanently visible in a fixed office location? Research suggests not!


An agile worker is every bit as likely, if not more so, to perform and deliver as well as a worker in a traditional work environment. Agile employees outperform so-called “hard workers” by nearly 20 percent, and research from Korn Ferry found that companies with more agile executives had 25 percent higher profit margins than their peers. Statistics sourced from, webinar




Does rigidity stifle agility? Our thoughts impact our behaviour, which affects our output and outcomes.


When our thoughts are open and flexible they are more receptive to opportunities. We have a choice who we work for. Employers are embracing a diverse and rapidly changing working world.


The thoughts in our minds and our confidence to pursue new working practices will hold us back, not rigid working patterns and inflexible management.


Agility, defined as the ability to move nimbly with speed and ease, coupled with flexibility of the mind is the new force in the world of work.


We appear to have entered a new era that embraces the freedom to choose how we work and when we work and for whom!