1. Section Editor(s): Raso, Rosanne DNP, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, FAONL

Article Content

We've heard over and over about the agility we demonstrated over the past year, not only adapting to quick change but also rapidly inventing change. As leaders, we've been complimented for agility and it has been on my short list of needed pandemic leadership competencies. Until I saw the title of a recent Harvard Business Review article, "Have We Taken Agile Too Far?" Have we?

Figure. No caption a... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. No caption available.

We're all exhausted. After all we've been through, we need a break from constantly shifting at warp speed to manage directives from above and situations on the ground. Much of it's out of our control: CDC and Department of Health recommendations, as well as state-driven executive orders, change almost daily and organizational response to new mandates and internal challenges drives immediate new processes and policies. We've had to be nimble, and we have been. We've had to be resilient, and we have been.


Even so, agility isn't a bad thing. At its most basic level, our teams approach every shift ready to address unit challenges together, whether for patients or each other, averting trouble and negative outcomes. You do the same. Every day brings new adventures, doesn't it? We thrive on solving problems in the moment. Often, the best actions come from our frontline staff members, and allowing them to act without unnecessary restrictions not only contributes to outcomes but also to empowerment and engagement. Patient experience is often dependent on it. Win-win.


Agility at an organizational level is harder, especially for big systems. Strategic agility isn't only reactive, it's also proactive. If the goal is swift action, getting stakeholder support depends on top-down, convincing communication that makes sense and appeals to our sense of purpose. Cascading the communication then falls to the frontline leaders of course.


Learning agility is another subset that contributes to success. Continuous understanding and application of lessons from experience place you in a much better position as a leader. Sometimes those lessons are learned in an arduous way and you have the battle scars to prove it. The bottom line is growing and developing your leadership skills. Do you regularly reflect on improvement for yourself and your team? Knowing what to do when you don't know what to do has been suggested as a definition of learning agility. We've done that in spades throughout the past pandemic year-another manifestation of agility.


Maybe agility is innovation with another name, or at least a cousin. Is standardization the opposite of innovation? Evidence-based practice relies on standardization to the evidence, yet innovation requires trying something new. The standard work of LEAN methodology doesn't allow for variation, also not a friend of being nimble. Perhaps standardization to innovation is on a continuum, with agility in the middle. Valuing agility doesn't mean you avoid or ignore thoughtful planning. We need that too! Although as Dwight D. Eisenhower said, "In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable." Haven't your best laid plans gone astray requiring you to quickly pivot? Planning and agility aren't opposites. Using agility as an excuse for not planning is not acceptable either.


In the end, despite our pandemic fatigue, agility hasn't gone too far. It's our middle name. We plan, change, iterate, and repeat, learning a lot along the way, individually and in teams. Embrace it.



Figure. No caption a... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. No caption available.