Tensions in Organisations Transforming to Agility

Strode, Diane; Sharp, Helen; Barroca, Leonor; Gregory, Peggy and Taylor, Katie (2022). Tensions in Organisations Transforming to Agility. IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management, 69(6) pp. 3572–3583.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1109/tem.2022.3160415


Transforming into an agile organisation is challenging because it involves complex changes across the organisation including changes to strategy, structure, culture, operations, and technology. Although much has been written about organisational agility, practitioners still call for authentic accounts and concrete experiences to help them understand how to transform. This article is based on three case studies of diverse organisations transforming to agility and provides an account of each transformation. Each organisation chose a different focus for their transformation: culture change, strategic change, and operational change. Each organisation faced challenges that resulted in tensions. We present 13 tensions from three cases, which illustrate the kinds of tension that organisations face in agile transformations. We consider these 13 tensions through the lens of paradox theory and thereby produce both practical guidance and theoretical contributions. We show how questions generated from this perspective may be used to guide transformation leaders and managers in addressing the tensions they will meet. Our findings provide empirical evidence for the tension categories in paradox theory and show that tensions occur during transformations to agility and not just in fully agile organisations.

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