Creating a Pathway to sustained success – introducing The Systemic Agility Alliance

May 25, 2012  

Be part of a new alliance

Welcome to the first edition of our blog – it’s a pleasure to be interacting with you, as we embark on our investigation of organizational health and systemic agility.

We believe that these are vitally important topics. There is evidence that current approaches to organizational leadership, development, and management are no longer fit for purpose in our globalized, turbulent and complex world. Today, few organizations consistently live up to the expectations of all their stakeholders – employees, customers, investors, communities – or have the balance, responsiveness, and strength required to endure.

We are also aware that there is a rich and fascinating body of work evolving on these subjects, our concern being that – for whatever reasons – organizations are generally slow to apply, test and adapt the most useful ideas. Undoubtedly there exist pockets of innovation and learning, but far too many organizations are holding on to practices that may have worked in the past but which are contributing to stasis and a failure to add meaningful value to their stakeholders.

We are creating an alliance intent on changing this. We don’t claim to have all the answers, but we believe we have an important contribution to make. So do you. This blog has been designed to help us collectively make this contribution and thereby promote greater agility in the organizations that serve us.

A little about us

The originators of this blog are Ciarán Beary and Bob Fitch, the co-founders of The Systemic Agility Alliance. The Alliance has a specific mission, namely:

To enable ambitious organizations to instill agile practices to the sustained benefit of all their stakeholders.

Bob Fitch, main author of our first posting

Ciarán and Bob first met in 2004, when we were suddenly thrown together to help shape a change program being launched within the United Nations (UN) system. While we are quite different people, we soon discovered abundant common ground. Professionally, our bond grew from a shared fascination in what makes organizations more agile – or, perhaps more often, stops them from becoming so. This theme became the “sandpit” in which we explored our understanding of, and our approach to improving, organizational health.

We also found that the UN initiative had the key ingredients that we both search for in our work. It was necessary (there are few people that are familiar with the UN system who would dispute that it is in need of fundamental change), challenging (there are a host of major obstacles to such fundamental change to what has been described as the world’s most complex organization), and worthwhile (we both firmly believe that today’s world is in serious need of a highly effective body performing the functions of the UN).

In many ways these ingredients became our common drivers, both in sustaining our efforts with the UN and in all our other engagements with different private, public and not-for-profit organizations. Above all else we strive to contribute to organizational development that is necessary, challenging and worthwhile. The Systemic Agility Alliance is the embodiment of our shared passion, and the vehicle through which we channel the lessons we learn through our research and practical endeavor. This blog has been created to extend the reach of The Alliance and build a community of common interest. Welcome to our sandpit!

Systemic Agility Aliance Co-founder Ciarán Beary

Our focus

We hope our focus is clearly expressed in The Alliance’s logo. In a nutshell, it is this.

  • Given the pace of change, the complexity and the unpredictability of today’s world, agility may be the best and only lasting comparative advantage that an organization can have.
  • Agility is essential but not necessarily sufficient. It is no good leaping like a cat only to miss the target. In today’s world, to stay on target, an organization has to be totally in tune with the world – the system – of which it is a part. It has to be systemic.
  • Like other living organisms, today’s organizations will only remain fully agile if they are truly healthy in mind, body and spirit. There are various – entirely valid – ways of defining organizational health. Common to the most useful ones are concepts of shared purpose, engagement, alignment, learning, innovation, and adaptability. At the heart of all definitions is the conviction that preoccupation with short-term performance is not the same – and can often be harmful to – the achievement of lasting organizational health.
  • Albert Einstein believed that “the significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” Similarly, we believe that in today’s interconnected and ever-changing world, organizations cannot expect to solve their problems with a fixed mindset. To paraphrase Einstein, organizations should “learn to see the world anew”. They need to learn how to re-think, and how to systematically embed re-thinking as a path to business-as-unusual.

The scene is set

This blog has been devised to probe into these critical matters, in particular to help stimulate management innovation and accelerate the practical application of re-thinking in organizations. Ultimately, healthier organizations will result in more satisfied stakeholders, and thus a healthier world.

Future postings on this blog will be based on the key themes outlined above, and will include reference to work we are involved in with our clients as well as insightful stories from the wider world. It is our hope that this blog will inspire fresh thinking and stimulate responses from our readers. As we said, we don’t for a moment claim to have all the answers but, by interacting with you, we intend to build a resource base – research, theory, case studies and other action-based learning all emanating from a community of shared interest – that can be readily accessed and used to promote organizational health. As much as possible we would like to feature your contributions, so please do take the time to comment whenever you feel the urge.

We expect that the subject matter will deserve approximately one fresh and substantive posting a week. We will try to regularize postings as much as possible, and will announce each one via Twitter, so please do follow us @systemicagility. We look forward to talking to you.

Ciarán Beary and Bob Fitch


Ciarán Beary

Ciarán is a skilled facilitator and story-teller. Of our founders, he takes a keen interest in designing facilitative processes that work. His favorite quote is “Be all you can be”. Based in the UK, sometimes you can even find him there. More about Ciarán