The AGILE Model®: A Change Agility Framework for CHROs

CHROs' Critical Role: Preparing the Organization for Change

How well organizations are prepared to survive in this turbulent business climate is becoming a fundamental issue and challenge for CHROs.  Organizations that are agile are the ones that quickly see opportunities, are shrewd in rapidly fine-tuning strategies, are able to meet customers’ individual needs, develop capable, flexible and project-based processes, and are fast at learning and unlearning. What is the role of the CHRO in equipping organizations to meet the challenge of the accelerating pace, volume, diversity, and scope of change?  Now, more than ever, CEOs and boards will demand that their CHROs become strategic partners in equipping their organizations to be change-ready (agile) to adapt and thrive to the challenge of the turbulent 21st century.

The practice of change management has been radically impacted by the continuing turbulent business environment characterized by rapidly-fragmenting, information-intensive, demographically-evolving, electronically-wired and individually-customized global marketplace.  It is our proposition that the business environment of the world today has overwhelmed the current change management models and forced organizations to find alternatives to the change management models of the past in order to create an agile capability to survive and thrive in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) environment. 

During the decade of the 90’s, many of the change initiatives were directly linked to large-scale multi-million-dollar projects focused on the implementation of enterprise-wide systems, such as PeopleSoft and SAP.   The change initiatives were often “add-ons” to the project versus fully integrated into the overall implementation project design often resulting in less than complete change needed for successful implementation.  Books, such as Project Change Management (Harrington, Conner and Horney, 2000), were written in an attempt to more closely integrate the two methodologies of project management and change management. 

The AGILE Model®

The Agile Model® was developed in 2002 from multi-disciplinary (e.g., psychology, leadership/management, operations, manufacturing, DOD, etc.) surveys and applied research on organizational change demands in our increasingly turbulent world.  It represents one of the new breed of change frameworks that focuses on creating individuals, teams and organizations that are “change ready.”  We define agility as “the ability of an individual, team or organization to dynamically sense and respond to changes in the environment with actions that are focused, fast and flexible.”

The AGILE Model® is focused on the alignment between people, process and technology operationalized through the five critical drivers:

Anticipate Change – Interpret the potential impact of business turbulence and trends along with the implications to the enterprise.

Generate Confidence – Create a culture of confidence and engagement of all associates into effective and collaborative teams.

Initiate Action – Provide the fuel and the systems to make things happen proactively and responsively at all levels of the organization.

Liberate Thinking – Create the climate and conditions for fresh solutions by empowering, encouraging and teaching others to be innovative.

Evaluate Results – Keep the focus and manage the knowledge to learn and improve from actions.

Agility Case Examples

Mary Eckenrod (Global Diversified Technology) – Global Talent Management.  The pace and magnitude of change in the global diversified technology sector in any one day necessitates a multidimensional framework for change across all employee levels, functions and geographies. 

As an executive responsible for global talent management, Eckenrod adopted The AGILE Model® as a key component of talent management strategy in several organizations. The framework and core processes have been used to help shape leadership competencies (e.g., anticipate change, liberate thinking/innovation), support overall talent assessment, reinforce talent management strategy through executive coaching and customized 360 assessment, and provide a common approach to organization change initiatives. 

Numerous change models were designed and implemented with American executives and teams not including Millennials or multicultural participants. Eckenrod experienced success in multiple cultures and geographies across employee levels and age groups using The AGILE Model® because considerations including context, culture and climate, and engagement are embedded in the model.

Managing change is no longer good enough for global organizations in rapidly changing markets.  Reacting to competitors’ new products and services will not offer a sustainable advantage.  As an internal HR executive, Eckenrod was able to provide effective tools and processes that enabled leaders, HR partners, and organizations to anticipate and exploit change with speed and flexibility.

Agility Advantage Sample.PNG

Gary McKinney (Oil & Gas – Valerus) – Organizational Transformation. Valerus embraced The AGILE Model® as a change framework to help define and drive its transformation in the oil and gas handling and processing sector.   Valerus entered a severe down turn in 2008 as the price of natural gas fell to new lows. The senior leadership committed to hire and train leaders with agility to change the company and build sustainable success. Leaders were coached and trained to apply The AGILE Model® to their day-to-day work.

Through the Accelerated Leadership Development Program (ALDP), a talent assessment and management process identified the Valerus high potential leaders who worked on teams to solve key business issues facing the company. The company HR group aligned The AGILE Model® with its approach to talent assessment, performance management, leadership development, team development, and employee engagement processes within the company. As an illustration, HR built agility into its talent review process by integrating scenario planning with the process so that it could adjust and adapt its talent portfolio with the demands of a turbulent marketplace. The Valerus business results of 46% revenue growth, year over year, combined with a similar EBITDA growth of 21% lends credibility to the business impact of this Human Resources-driven organizational transformation process.


The AGILE Model® represents a framework ongoing research and application of change methodology in a VUCA world. How can Human Resource Professionals apply The AGILE Model® to help transform their organizations and HR processes? 

The benefits of agility give companies the freedom to make smart and fast decisions that are in the best long-term interest of the company. But the secret formula lies in the alignment between people, process and technology that agile companies use to conduct business with an unrelenting obsession around anticipating change, remaining focused on their vision and leadership practices that allow them to continually be nimble in the ever changing business environment.

About Nick Horney
Nick Horney, Ph.D. is The Agility Doc. He first discovered the value of agility during his 23 years of service as a special operations naval officer responsible for diving and explosive ordnance disposal teams. In these rapidly unfolding and changing circumstances--and now, as an organizational psychologist--Nick discovered that the key ingredient separating good leaders from best leaders is agility. After serving in a senior role at the Center for Creative Leadership, he founded Agility Consulting and Training in 2001. Learn more about Nick at