LD Programs for Leadership Agility

Case Studies and Results

How have companies used ChangeWise Leadership Development programs and what have been the results?

Read real-life examples of how ChangeWise leadership development programs have benefitted leaders and their companies. This page presents three case studies ...

  • Developing Executives to Lead in the VUCA Environment 
  • Developing an Executive Group into an Agile, System-wide Leadership Team
  • Developing an Agile Leadership Culture in an AI unit

Developing Executives to Lead in the VUCA Environment

The need

The VP of Leadership and Organization Development at a Fortune 500 chemical corporation (let's call her Pam), was tasked with significantly updating their world-class LD program for preparing high-potential leaders for the executive ranks. 

The existing program had worked very well for many years, but now needed to be revamped, due to significant changes in the company and its environment. As its business context became more complex and began to change more rapidly, the company had responded by creating a matrix management structure. 

Pam was certified in the Leadership Agility 360 and realized the company needed to develop leaders who could skillfully embody all four types of agility highlighted in the instrument. It needed executives who were more visionary, could think and act systemically across functions and organizations, had the emotional intelligence to lead collaboratively, and could develop themselves and others in an uncertain environment.

The work

Pam felt the company’s competency-based 360 worked for identifying the kind of leadership that was needed in the past, but not in the future. For the backbone of her revamped program, she chose the Leadership Agility 360. In addition to its focus on agility and “vertical” (inner as well as behavioral) development, she chose this 360 because it included the Catalyst level of agility, a very good match for the level of change and complexity new executives would need to manage.

In the new program, 360 feedback was followed by 9 one-hour, individualized coaching sessions. Leaders also attended facilitated experiential learning experiences consistent with the Leadership Agility framework and spent 4 months working with teams of cross-functional peers on important company issues.

The results

The company’s process for evaluating the new program was quite rigorous. In-depth interviews were conducted to assess whether new leadership behavior targeted by the program had been put into practice. The Leadership Agility 360 was administered again 9 months after the program’s end to assess the degree to which agility levels increased.

The post-360 showed significant increases in agility level. The interviews revealed that a very high percentage of participants were continuing to practice the new behaviors needed by the company.

Evaluations of the Leadership Agility 360 instrument and process consistently rated it as:

  • An extremely valuable development tool
  • Providing a more integrated view of their leadership than traditional 360s
  • Making it easier to visualize future behaviors and a path for growth
  • Generating more powerful leadership development action plans

The program as a whole was frequently rated by participants as “the best I’ve ever experienced.” The company was so pleased with the results that it continued to run it for over 10 years, when the company was purchased by an even large corporation.

Pam's quote

"As a senior consultant with significant experience as VP of Leadership & OD for a Fortune 500 company, I find that the Leadership Agility 360 is far and away the best 360 I've ever used.

“The frustration many colleagues and I have experienced with traditional, competency-based 360s is that, unlike this 360, they don't provide a clear, integrated picture of where managers are in their leadership development and what their next steps might look like.

“I've used the Leadership Agility 360 with hundreds of leaders and really like its behavioral and business-oriented language and its ‘asset-based’ rather than ‘deficit-based’ approach. Finally, compared with the other 360s I've used, the leadership development goals managers commit to are much more powerful and get more to the heart of a leader's needs." 

Developing Executives into Agile, System-Wide Leaders

The Problem

A healthcare system had evolved beyond its original hospital-centric focus to include a variety of additional units and services, including specialized medical centers and physician practices. To navigate an increasingly complex and uncertain health care environment, the CEO needed an executive team that could lead with a strategic, system-wide perspective, who could collaborate and effectively implement a variety of cross-functional change initiatives quickly and with outstanding results. Yet the members of his extended executive team were operating in a tactical manner, overly focused on their own “silos” – far from the way they 

needed to lead. For this reason, the CEO asked his HR VP to find a top-quality 360-feedback and coaching process that could develop his executives into a more effective leadership team. After a thorough search, they decided to use the Leadership Agility 360. They chose this tool because it pin-pointed key areas where their executives needed to grow: leading organizational change, leading teams, and pivotal conversations, because it provided a clear path for growth, and because it was user-friendly.

The project

The Leadership Agility 360 process was launched with a group orientation. Once the feedback reports were ready, each executive met individually with a coach to debrief their report, identify three high-leverage leadership behaviors to develop, and create a “from-to” action plan for practicing these behaviors where they would have the greatest impact.

Each executive then participated in 8 coaching sessions. In the middle of this 8-month coaching process, the top group attended our Leadership Agility Change Lab, which provided a “bridge,” transferring individual leadership development into changes in the functioning of the team as a whole.

The Change Lab is a 2-day action-learning program – a highly interactive, roll-up-your sleeves experience, focused on participants’ real-life change projects. Through a rich mix of practical learning experiences—small group work, peer coaching, individual reflection, group discussion—these executives received specific feedback and coaching, and practiced new, more agile ways to frame and lead change.

Each person emerged from the Change Lab with a multifaceted, upgraded action plan for their change initiative, and a highly specific, individualized plan for practicing more agile leadership behavior. Equally important was a shift in the team’s leadership culture toward increased common purpose, candor and collaboration.

The results

The project ended with a half-day Capstone event, executive-led, consultant-facilitated. They assessed their progress both in broad terms and with specific examples. Positive changes in each team member’s mindset and behavior were clearly evident. As confirmed by the CEO, they now approached their organizational improvement initiatives more strategically, working more collaboratively with key stakeholders, and fostering greater alignment and commitment.  

Teamwork had improved within the executive team, and trust had increased across functions, with positive ripple effects throughout the system. Change initiatives were being implemented more quickly and were getting better results. Furthermore, the teams they lead were more engaged, requiring executives to spend less time fire-fighting, freeing up time to focus on strategic issues. In sum, a new leadership culture had taken root. In the language of the Leadership Agility framework, the team had gone from Expert to full-fledged Achiever leadership.

Central to these results was the role played by the Leadership Agility Change Lab. The executives learned new and more powerful ways to frame their change initiatives, and they adopted the workshop’s creative thinking methodology for use in addressing important organizational problems. Peer coaching and practice with pivotal conversations during the workshop, reinforced by follow-up coaching, led to noticeably increased candor and much more effective collaboration in addressing cross-functional issues.

The CEO’s desired results had been accomplished. The team was committed to shared leadership in a truly integrated, patient-centric healthcare system, and they felt better equipped to meet their future leadership challenges.

Developing an Agile Leadership Culture in an AI unit

The need

A mid-sized North American energy corporation had recently stood up an AI group to support other key units in the company. Thie group adopted a number of Agile practices, but progress on that front was slow. The leader of the group (let’s call him Mac) realized they would not get where they needed to go without developing an agile leadership culture.

Mac decided to start with a leadership coaching process for himself and 9 key leaders in his unit. After considering several options, Mac chose to use our Leadership Agility 360 feedback-and-coaching process, which had been recommended by another manager in the company.

The project

The certified Leadership Agility coaches who staffed this project began with a group orientation. There participants engaged in a lively, interactive group exercise, where they learned the three levels of leadership agility at a very practical level. Then they were oriented as a group to the 360-and-coaching process. This experience was followed by half-hour individualized orientations and administration of the Leadership Agility 360.

A certified Leadership Agility 360 coach met with each leader individually to debrief their report and create a coaching agenda. Each person’s coaching agenda focused on 2 or 3 chosen leadership practices. One of the powerful things about this process is that it results in a collaboratively designed action plan for each practice. Each action plan has 4 elements:

  • A concrete description of a desired behavior to practice, contrasted with their current behavior.
  • The personalized mindset shift needed to make the desired behavior easier to practice.
  • The most important situations where they wanted to practice the new mindset-and-behavior.
  • How they were going to remind themselves to put the practice into action.

Once these action plans were created, participants were provided with three 1-hour coaching sessions. In these sessions ChangeWise Leadership Agility coaches utilized proprietary coaching methods to help group leaders develop new levels of agility. (These methods are taught in the ChangeWise Leadership Agility Coaching Certification Program).

The project ended with a Capstone session, where the whole group reassembled. There they:

  • Heard and discussed a brief presentation that included an anonymous profile of the group’s agility level, based on the quantitative feedback (average = Achiever).
  • Heard from each participant about their chosen leadership practices, with a story or two about the results from these practices.
  • Discussion of changes people had seen in how the group as a whole worked together.


What were the practices these leaders chose to work on, and what were the results? The practices described below are listed in the order of those most frequently chosen by these AI leaders:

  • Pivotal conversations. Almost everyone decided to work on what we call “pivotal conversations.” These are discussions where two people do not initially see eye-to-eye, but they need to align to move forward effectively.

    The focus of the work here was on what we call a leader’s “power style.” Power style refers to the extent to which a leader balances asserting their own point of view with listening and being receptive to other views. Most worked on becoming more receptive listeners, though some worked on being more forthright about their own views.

As we often find with these projects, work on improving pivotal conversations had a powerful impact on how people worked together individually, how the group interacted with one another, and even their relationships with external groups.

  • Collaborative problem-solving and goal-setting. Many in the group were in the habit of engaging in what we call Expert problem-solving. That is, when they saw a problem where expertise was relevant, they went off on their own, created what they hoped would be a bullet-proof solution, then tried to sell that solution to others. Their new practice was to identify a problem that needed attention, gather the relevant stakeholders, and facilitate a group problem-solving process.

This approach yielded dramatically better results. For example, one leader successfully applied this approach, which was quite new for him, to creating a diversity and inclusion program. After the new program had been implemented, higher-ups told him that this was the best such program in the company’s history.

Another leader applied this approach to the way goals were set and cascaded to other levels within the AI unit. This approach worked so well that it was adopted by other members of the group, including Mac.

  • Framing team discussions. Another practice some leaders focused on was to more clearly frame topics in team meetings, being explicit at the outset about whether they wanted to make a decision, or just discuss the topic at this point. If they wanted a decision – how would it be made, by whom? And were there any “givens” the group should know about up-front? The leaders who adopted these practices noted that the increased clarity had made decision-making with their teams more effective (In terms of gaining alignment and commitment) and more efficient.
  • Priority setting and resilience. As is often the case these days, almost everyone was on overload. To help mitigate the stress, some in the group chose to work on practices such as setting clearer priorities, taking mini-breaks, and building their personal resilience.

They also noted that these practices had improved the level of teamwork among the group as a whole. At the end of the Capstone, Mac said he was very pleasantly surprised and encouraged by a new the level of candor within the group, including within the Capstone session itself.

The success of this project led Mac to expand it to include other leaders.