Vacillation or Agility

Changing organizational-direction may feel like instability. Worse yet, some may think that leaders that adapt are weak. The end result is uncertainty among the troops.

Uncertainty drains vitality which leads to disloyalty and ends with poor performance.

“… Agility is less a matter of adapting one’s direction continuously and more a matter of being open to different ways to achieve the directions you have set for yourself. In other words, real agility isn’t about heading north one day and south the next; that’s vacillation.” (From, “Strategic Speed – Mobilize People, Accelerate Execution.”)

Frequently, what is perceived by others as changing direction is actually adapting methods, strategies, or tactics.

Organizations seldom change their True North. However, successful organization frequently adapt to changing circumstances in order to stay on course. When the wind blows against them, they reset the sails and begin tacking.

Course adjustments may destabilize organizations because it feels like they’re heading in the wrong direction.

Bringing stability into agility

Successful leaders always keep True North uppermost in everyone’s mind. Adapting methods can be a point of leadership-strength as long as organizational mission remains in the forefront and new methods connect with changing circumstances.

Don’t say, “We’re trying this new … ”  Do say, “We’ll better fulfill our mission if we … “

Organizations that believe changing their methods is changing their mission (True North) die. They cling to antiquated, ineffective programs, strategies, and techniques.

However, organizations grounded in mission and committed to agility are more likely to thrive. An added benefit, adapting methods is perceived not as weakness but strength.


Have you seen others perceive changing methods as changing True North? What happened?

How can organizations learn the difference between agility (changing methods) and vacillation (changing True North)?


This post is inspired by Davis, Frechette, Jr., and Boswell’s book, Strategic Speed. I’m reviewing it soon.