Developing the Agility to Lead Change


In today’s business environment, managers who lead change can avoid becoming victims of industry disruption – and even become disruptors themselves, by cultivating organizational agility.

Agility, says McKinsey, “is the ability of an organization to renew itself, adapt, change quickly, and succeed in a rapidly changing, ambiguous, turbulent environment.” This quality is why companies like Fujifilm, Netflix, Apple, and Google have survived (or created) industry disruptions.

WholeWorks custom business simulations build your organizational agility in two ways: with "strategy labs" for managerial experimentation with strategic responses to emerging trends, and with "practice fields" where leaders develop hands-on competencies of implementation. Our participants learn to respond proactively and effectively, keeping your organization ahead of the competition.

Case Study: Preparing for Rapid Change in the Solar Industry

Several years ago, with the solar energy sector booming, a major supplier asked us to help them evaluate next moves. We used the system dynamics approach to model their rapidly evolving competitive landscape, and conduct what-if analysis of multiple scenarios. Result: better understanding of financial risks and new insights into alternative strategies.

There’s no one better at deeply and clearly understanding a system and how it produces value than Matt Mayberry . . . Over the years, Matt’s models have helped change a lot of minds.
— Frank Mellon, President, Mellon Solutions

Case Study: Preparing Leaders for the Era of Great Change at Starwood

As the leading global lifestyle hospitality brand, Starwood needed leaders capable of keeping up with rapid technological, social, environmental, and global change. WholeWorks created a challenging simulation that would support "The Journey" by promoting strategic and cultural alignment across levels of management. The resulting program helped forge new ties between corporate and field leaders and across the company's nine brands.

This simulation was one of the most robust and impactful leadership programs I have attended. . . . I was so impressed, I hired WholeWorks to develop a similar simulation for business leaders in my organization.
— Colleen Keating, former SVP Franchise Operations, Starwood Hotels and Resort Worldwide.

Four Essential Competencies for Strategic Agility

Disruptive Systems Thinking

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We expect senior executives to look beyond current business models and envision new ways of creating competitive advantage. But when frontline managers also adopt this entrepreneurial outlook (known as disruptive systems thinking), companies become ideally positioned to spot and capitalize on emerging trends.

Cultivating this mindset requires foresight, broad perspective, and understanding of system interdependencies. Managers with these capabilities can create partnerships, restructure processes, and redeploy resources in mutually reinforcing ways.

WholeWorks business simulations are the fastest, most efficient way for frontline leaders to gain experience exploring multiple responses under changing conditions -- without jeopardizing their everyday business.


Adaptable business leaders respond nimbly when faced with unexpected changes – but you can’t be nimble under a hierarchical strategic model, with rigid plans and top-down control.

Instead, senior leaders need to establish clear guidelines and boundaries that give managers latitude for a more experimental approach to executing strategy. Use of prototyping and virtual tools such as simulation help test alternative approaches, and accelerate learning.

Our business simulations let participants play out consequences across multiple evolving scenarios, gain working knowledge of system dynamics, and learn to make adjustments that sustain progress. That’s adaptability.

Agile Execution

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Agile execution isn’t just quick decision-making. Unlike startups, larger organizations also need well-developed structures to execute change with timeliness and coordination.

These agile structures include cross-organizational teams that can form and dissolve in response to market conditions, clear decision-making guidance and delegation, and re-deployable standard processes. Agile organizations also typically have clarity of purpose, a shared vision for the future that allows flexibility, and a high-performance culture.

Balancing speed and structure can be challenging, but WholeWorks total-immersion simulations enable leaders to practice new approaches that increase responsiveness, and avoid both chaos and bureaucracy.

Leading Change

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Effective change leaders roll up their sleeves, engage in difficult conversations, challenge current thinking (including their own), seek new information, and encourage experiments.They help their colleagues move through unfamiliar territory by realigning their thinking, knowledge, and outlook.

But, like anything else, change leadership is learned through experience – and that’s hard to come by in traditionally stable businesses.

Managers who participate in WholeWorks simulations learn how to help their teams deal with the struggles, conflicts, anxieties and tensions of disequilibrium, in a safe “practice field” environment – so their organizations can prepare for a new future.