Q: Agility VS Flexibility?

Question: What is the difference between agility and flexibility?


Answer (from Robert Ogilvie):

Agility and Flexibility can both easily serve the same end- essentially meaning the same thing.  Typically, Agility is more associated with Agile; Agile Project Management, Methodologies, etc.  By contrast, Flexibility could be seen as more Operations related- not a strategy shift but simply how a team might operate and respond.

Agile is, high-level, supposed to be iterative in it’s sprints (brief cycles of 1–4 weeks of work).  This is to allow ongoing Customer & Product Validation, which means that the overall Strategy is acknowledged to be some combination of incomplete, ambiguous, and/or changing.  In some of the Leadership Coaching work I do, I get Leaders to go through different Mindfulness and Creativity exercise to allow more “Mental Agility”.  People become fixed-minded and assumptive in their thinking and analyzing options, so it take conscious effort and new training to allow more range in their strategic awareness, orienting to, and conceiving solutions.

Flexibility I’d frame as more operational.  Thumbnail sketch: “here’s the goal and I don’t care how you accomplish it”.  Military is all about this- Recce this site, secure and defend this grid, support that platoon with blah assets in their mission, etc.  Good Ops & Project Managers have are able to make timely decisions and always push things towards progress.  In that way, they’re “Tactically Flexible” in that the variety of tactics they may use are all about achieving that known objective- be it to build software, fulfill the needs of a given user market segment, defend a known position, or handle inbound customer service request given limited resourcing.

In Summary:
* Agility and Flexibility are common inter-changed, so don’t expect a hard-and-fast definition that everyone else will know and follow
* I’d put forth that Agility or being Agile as a Manager, relates more to Strategic Agility, thus impacting customer or competitive strategy more so.  Many leaders could stand to increase their “Mental Agility”.
* I’d suggest that Flexibility, or being Flexible as a manager, relates to “Tactical Flexibility” in that their strategic objectives are clear but methods and options to achieve them are open change and managerial command.


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