Christina Lovelock MBCS explores the importance of organisational agility as the key to resilience.

Research and development; horizon scanning; innovation hub: there are many phrases for being outward looking and future focused, but few organisations actually achieve it.

Organisational agility

Good business analysts are continually curious and committed to learning. We have key skills to offer in enabling our organisations to anticipate impacts, bounce back quickly or rapidly change direction. These capabilities can be considered ‘organisational agility’ which is quite separate from the successful adoption of agile delivery methodologies.

Learning organisation

Learning should be an explicit goal of every project and every delivery team. Post implementation reviews and retrospectives, when they occur, tend to focus on process improvement (‘how can we deliver better/faster?’) and don’t allow an exploration of learning. We should ask, ‘what did we learn about ourselves? Our customers? Our competition or our future direction?’

Being a learning organisation improves innovation, efficiency, collaboration and competitive advantage, and becoming one is not something that can be outsourced or made the responsibility of specific roles. It has to happen every day, through conversations, interactions and attention to learning.

Enabling innovation: internal

Organisations which enable internally-driven innovation seek suggestions and improvements from all levels. Staff know where to take their ideas, as these organisations have processes and structures that allow suggestions to be captured, investigated and evaluated.

Many employees know full well how systems and processes can be improved, what customers really want, and have tactical and strategic solutions to real problems — but there is often no clear route to get these ideas implemented. Portfolios are full to bursting; busyness, petty politics and internal structures stand as the enemies of innovation.

If every idea or opportunity becomes a project on the portfolio or an item on a backlog, we know the organisation is not being sufficiently innovative to maintain business agility. Equally, if we are seeing a large number of ideas that are not feasible or valuable, then we know that we do not have a culture of innovation.

Enabling innovation: external

What does ‘being outward-looking’ look like? It means being open to learning from other organisations, disciplines and sectors. It means sending representatives to industry forums and encouraging (not simply allowing) staff to attend and speak at events and conferences. It means inviting external speakers to share their learning and creating partnerships that provide complementary skills and knowledge. It means funding membership of professional bodies, appropriate training, reading and research. And it means ensuring staff have time allocated for these activities, which improve morale, creativity and innovation.

Organisational resilience

Discussions on resilience often focus on:

1) Technical resilience and disaster recovery
2) Staff resilience as a response to change
3) Product/service resilience through a diversified portfolio

These areas are important, but neither alone or in combination do they create a truly resilient organisation. To work towards and achieve greater levels of resilience, a coherent resilience strategy needs to be developed which incorporates technology, data, processes, people and culture.

For you

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The pathway to becoming a more resilient organisation and having increased organisational agility involves the commitment and investment to become a learning organisation. This organisational commitment needs to be reflected in hiring practices, promotion criteria and performance reviews. It is not possible to become a learning organisation if your people aren’t managed and supported in a way that demands a continuous learning and improvement approach and mindset.

Business analysts can foster and role-model this mindset, through our own commitment to professional development, by analysing from every perspective, through creative facilitation and by encouraging participation from all stakeholders.


Every organisation needs a clear process that encourages internally-driven innovation, including through allocating time and budget space, demonstrating the expectation that at least some good ideas will come from this route. Every organisation needs to invest in externally-driven innovation by funding its employees to be present in their professional world, through reading, networking, training and conferences. This builds the expectation of continuous learning for individuals and teams.

Both organisational agility and organisational resilience can only be achieved through being a learning organisation.

About the author

Christina Lovelock is a digital leader, coach and author. She is active in the Business Analysis professional community and champions entry level roles. She is the co-author of the BCS book Delivering Business Analysis: The BA Service Handbook.