AGILITY PLAYBOOK FOR 2018 – OFFENSE OR DEFENSE?

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’Tis the Season to be Jolly … it is also the season for lots of great football action!  Hopefully your favorite team will be peaking and performing at this time when it really matters.  Our team is the Carolina Panthers who are heading to the playoffs but experiencing some unpredictable VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) and coming from the most unexpected source … the team owner, Jerry Richardson,   A stark reminder that sometimes we face “external” VUCA … and sometimes we face “internal” VUCA that is the result of our own making, neglect or narcissm.  In case you hadn’t heard or don’t follow such things … in a matter of a couple of weeks Richardson fell from being revered as one of the high integrity ‘good guys’ stalwart NFL team owners down to a ‘questionable character’ accused of serial ‘workplace misconduct’ … to the point of deciding he must sell the team in 2018.  Whew … all in VUCA hyper-speed!

Whether your focus is on navigating the chaos of your own internal VUCA or striving for competitive advantage in the commercial world … I do think there are some interesting lessons to be taken from some of the highly successful coach/leaders operating in the cauldron of intense competition called the National Football League (NFL).  This is the annual shake-out season – where speculation abounds for who will get fired, hired or retired.  In this sport, as in most organizations, there are mindsets, systems and processes for providing offense, defense as well as “special teams”.

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In this blog space, you often hear us talk about building skills to respond to your VUCA which is a very “defensive” orientation … responding to initiative taken elsewhere.  Defense is important. In fact, some say that defense wins championships and well worth building skills and capabilities for “sensing and responding”.  As you build your 2018 Agility Playbook,  I encourage you to build a “proactive” defensive posture … one that stands ready to map, understand and respond to your environment but also bringing an aggressive mindset for some occasional “blitzes” … forays into the VUCA to test the competition’s capacity to run or pass.

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Creating Agility as a Competitive Advantage also means building out our “offensive” capabilities … are you ready to seize the day – poised to capture the prize?  One of the mindsets and paradigms I fully appreciate and endorse … it is called THE TWO MINUTE DRILL.  In American football, this is a hyper-speed and high performance mode that gets initiated at the “last two minutes” of a half or the game end.  It is completely amazing and transformative what happens with these teams as they move into this hyper-space.  Suddenly, communications become crisp and clear.  Roles and responsibility are unambiguous and accountable.  Commitment and team effort is superhuman and universal – everyone buys in and delivers.  Wow … why isn’t this possible in the first two minutes or mid-way in the first quarter?  Here is an excerpt I condensed from a great book by Longenecker, Papp and Stansfield called THE TWO MINUTE DRILL.  It has some useful thoughts and checklists especially for evaluating your “quarterbacks” (or leaders).

How about “special teams” … those amazing specialists who are able to bring focused expertise to things like punts, field goals, kick-offs or creating turnovers.  Special teams are very important in agile organizations as well.  These special project teams are enabled and empowered to go after chronic agility obstacles and opportunities to bring special solutions or new capabilities to enervate growth and development.  More and more, it is clear to us that those organizations that understand, invest and enable mission critical agility action teams … are building the muscle to win in the future.  Who knows what challenges 2018 or 2019 will bring … but I know if I have a cadre of skilled agility champions already commissioned, trained and ready … I can face any adversity and have a better chance of succeeding.  Those without that foresight … will struggle.

All great coaches succeed by building their playbooks and conditioning their teams with the right concepts, capabilities and shared belief systems.  How confident are you in your playbook for 2018.  Are you ready?  This is our specialty area.  I would love to explore, refine or build your 2018 Agility Playbook with you.  Let me hear your thoughts and ideas!

Hurricane VUCA Tests and Inspires Our Agility

HARVEY, IRMA, JOSE, KATIA … they used to be just nice names but now are forever associated with widespread fear, disruption and potential devastation.  In this “6-degrees of separation” world, most all of us know at least one person or family experiencing or anticipating the VUCA forces of one of these hurricanes.

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These massive natural disasters wreck havoc and overwhelm us with their destructive intensity while also creating the gloom of helplessness - especially when it involves protecting our loved ones.  All of the VUCA dimensions are in full play during these natural calamities -

  • Volatility of the event and after shocks - will there by more to come?
  • Uncertainty about so many aspects of life, health, livelihood and future decisions with many bad choices?
  • Complexity surrounding almost every aspect - insurance, logistics, safety, employment security, short term and long term housing, etc, etc?
  • Ambiguity in seeking right outcomes - what is right scenario and what factors should be considered in deciding?

No doubt these events test the limits of our human capacity to cope and all instincts for survival.  We also see so many acts of bravery and selflessness during these disasters.

  • First responders giving their attention to saving and caring for others while their own families affected also
  • Neighbors helping neighbors without hesitation or regard for other differences
  • Thousands of others from across the country and globe giving generously

What is it about the chaos of crisis or natural disaster that brings out the best in so many … in our homeplace and in our workplace?  I cannot count the number of times i have heard in team workshops or read in organizational agility surveys about the amazing teamwork that comes together whenever we face the crisis?  It always begs the question - why don’t we operate this way all the time … with highly focused sense of urgency, attentive listening and responding empathetically with each other and with everyone operating with the shared sense of teamwork and goodwill?  I must assume it has to do with both the physiology and the psychology of the crisis moment … maybe heightened levels of epinephrine plus serotonin contributing to higher energy to seek well-being.

One of the benefits of modern technology and social media is to help us ANTICIPATE CHANGE in dangerous weather patterns to help us get prepared.  Hurricane IRMA has not hit land yet so hopefully those who are in the predicted pathway can prepare for the worse case scenario.  What will be the VUCA hurricanes likely to disrupt your 2018 success plans?  How equipped are you to see them coming and get prepared for the worse and best case scenarios.  Sometimes these disruptive forces open areas of opportunity for those with the vision and foresight to sense and respond.

What will INSPIRE your agility journey?  Will you wait until the hurricane crashes your house down to be convinced of the need to be prepared?  Or will you be one of the proactive champions building the adaptive capacity throughout your organization to help you not only survive but to THRIVE!

You will find lots of ideas and suggestions on our website … as well as in conversation with any of our partners.

About Tom O'Shea

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Tom O'Shea, CMC
Principal, Agility Consulting
Organizational Agility Practice Leader

Volatile, unpredictable, even erratic- these are the times we live in and exactly why Tom O’Shea is considered a trusted advisor and collaborator helping leaders, teams and organizations adapt and thrive by becoming more focused, fast and flexible in an increasingly complex and ambiguous world.

As Principal at Agility Consulting and Training, Tom brings a unique blend of strategic, operational and organizational expertise and support that is rare and valuable. With perceptive insight, proven strategies and impactful coaching skills, he helps clients at the enterprise, team and individual leader levels exceed even their own expectations. Learn more about Tom here.

Agility Anathema: A Culture of Optionalism

WE ARE WHAT WE TOLERATE … is a core truism that tends to shape the culture (or at least the climate) as well as shape the spectrum of accepted behavior for societies as well as our organizations!  There are many iterations on this basic tenet including some strong quotes from the leadership guru, John C. Maxwell, or one of the motivation gurus, Tony Robbins among others.  The wisdom in this adage applies fully to each of us as individuals as well as leaders of teams, functions, units or the entire enterprise.  It is equally as applicable and relevant as we think about the dynamics in our families and other social relationships.  Collectively, it rolls up into the kind of customs, mores and codes of conduct that define us in all our communities, cities, regions and countries.

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One of the biggest issues we see in so many organizations -  is the need to dismantle the ubiquitous “culture of optionalism” that is a dangerous cancer growing and getting out of control!  In our work around the world with organizations of every description and industry, we are often having this discussion in our workshops on how overcome this hurdle as we strive to build greater organizational focus, speed and adaptability to compete successfully in this faster, more turbulent VUCA world.

Invariably, as we work with leadership teams to help them build clarity in their strategy maps and plot the pathways to Shape the Future, we find that “strategizing" becomes the “easier” part of the equation.  The really tough stuff comes as the leaders go back into their teams with the conditioned programming of an existing agenda and entrenched inertia of “the way we do things around here”.  To be an Agile Leader in this world, it takes great skill and commitment to marshall the energy and fortitude to lead REAL transformation and offset the tendencies that promote this insidious culture of optionalism.

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So, what are some of the symptoms and signs of this “optionalism” cultural virus?  Do you recognize any of these organizational behaviors:

  • Few people willing to step up to make decisions, own outcomes or initiate action without prodding
  • Decisions and agreements that are made in meetings rarely get implemented on time … without any corresponding consequence
  • Senior leaders tend not to communicate information actively down through their teams … resulting in many down the line folks operating blind … unaware of strategy or group priorities
  • Rogue managers who do not own or share the core values are allowed to continue … sometimes even recognized or rewarded
  • Functional agendas and priorities “trump" the group or enterprise priorities … without consequences or accountability
  • Team members are regularly confused and uncertain … is it that people come first, or is it customers come first or is it profit at all cost … what is it this week?

Focused, Fast & Flexible - these three simple words amplify loudly as the counterweights to a culture of optionalism.  Easy to say … hard to create and sustain!  Focus is the anchor for agility when it embodies the Why, How & What for your Agility journey.  The greater the clarity of these values, operating principles and success metrics - the less room there is for optionalism to exist.  Focus directs and informs where we must build organizational speed and flexibility - especially when allowed (or expected) to percolate at all levels within the organization.  Yes, we are what we tolerate and yet we can also be what you aspire to be … if you are willing to do what it takes and have the courage to be accountable to your vision and values.  There has been lots of comparable discussion in the national news this past week or two … I am hopeful we can all work harder on this in all aspects of our lives.  Our future and the future of our kids depend on it!

I would love to hear your experiences and perspectives.

The Speed of Chaos

 

Is it just me or do you also feel the strings of life getting wound tighter and tighter all around us?  Lots of tension winding things up from so many different directions confounded by the g-force speed of news and social media … especially in the form of tweets.  This maelstrom is creating a new phenomenon we might call … the speed of chaos.  We speak regularly in this space about the VUCA world – that volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous reality we all face.  The “viscosity of VUCA” is feeling very thick this week as each of these pistons of chaos are raging whether we talk about North Korea, Venezuela,  Washington, Charlottesville or wondering if the next unfortunate community to face unwelcome chaos will be close to your home.  Ugh.

Finding solutions to the underlying factors creating the level 5 VUCA we see in the world around us is well above my pay grade.  I do think, however, that we should all recognize the spillover of this unsettling and growing tension into the workplace.  Our world is often perplexing and we cannot avoid bringing our humanity into the workplace as we try and figure things out.  As leaders of organizations, it will be helpful to anticipate these possibilities, imagine potential scenarios and consider the implications in advance.

I am often reminded of the incredible insight that author and futurist, Alvin Toffler, had over forty years ago when he wrote visionary book … “FUTURE SHOCK”.  Toffler could clearly see some of the important implications but also the challenges that lie ahead in coping with the “shattering stress and disorientation” in this chaotic future.  He goes on to say …

“To survive, to avert what we have termed future shock, the individual must become infinitely more adaptable and capable than ever before. We must search out totally new ways to anchor ourselves, for all the old roots - religion, nation, community, family, or profession - are now shaking under the hurricane impact of the accelerative thrust. It is no longer resources that limit decisions, it is the decision that makes the resources.” 

As the Speed of Chaos accelerates, how can you and your teams become more adaptable and capable than ever before?   That is the challenge you face everyday.  Our quest to becoming more adaptable as individuals and organizations starts with examining and affirming our core belief systems about important things.  In your organizations, what are the values and operating principles that define you and how can you use them to anchor yourselves and your teams as the “accelerative thrust” increases?

This week also reminded me of an article I wrote a few years ago … What If the USA Were AGILE?  In that article, we examined some of the agility implications from the “most important” CEO role in America and also included a Leaders’s Checklist for Driving Organizational Agility that can serve as your mini-playbook for navigating chaos. It has a number of helpful questions for you and your team to explore to help you become more adaptable and capable than ever before to face the FUTURE SHOCK that will no doubt lie ahead.  The only real certainty that we have is the knowledge that the future will get faster, more turbulent and VUCA than ever.  Ready or not … here it comes!

I am interested in getting your comments and your favorite Alvin Toffler quotes also.

 

About Tom O'Shea

Tom O'Shea, CMC
Principal, Agility Consulting
Organizational Agility Practice Leader

Volatile, unpredictable, even erratic- these are the times we live in and exactly why Tom O’Shea is considered a trusted advisor and collaborator helping leaders, teams and organizations adapt and thrive by becoming more focused, fast and flexible in an increasingly complex and ambiguous world.

As Principal at Agility Consulting and Training, Tom brings a unique blend of strategic, operational and organizational expertise and support that is rare and valuable. With perceptive insight, proven strategies and impactful coaching skills, he helps clients at the enterprise, team and individual leader levels exceed even their own expectations. Learn more about Tom here.

Click here to read the rest of Tom's blogs

Is Your VUCA External or Internal?

Whew!  The past seven months has been a pretty chaotic time in Washington and across the globe with almost more dramatic episodes of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA) than we can count.  I am pretty sure that the Hollywood screenplay writers and reality TV show producers have more material than they can use for several seasons.  If the potential consequences and implications of this global VUCA vortex were not so daunting with somewhat impetuous leaders in North Korea, Russia and beyond – one might imagine a surreal, Sci-Fi-tinged spy thriller coming to theaters in early 2018.  Let’s hope it does not continue to play out with that kind of drama.

VUCA is that term coined at the US Army War College in the late 1990’s  and is precisely descriptive of the global operating context.  The reality is that there are “layers” of VUCA operating all the time. For example, the Global VUCA layer has its dynamics, consequences, influences and implications – so does your Regional and Local VUCA spheres.  This is intrinsically part of the VUCA vortex and adds to the total complexity factor that leaders and organizations must encounter and navigate.

There is another very impactful dimension to the VUCA equation – your “INTERNAL” VUCA! As we work with clients around the world, we often see significant amounts of VUCA created INSIDE the organization that compounds and exasperates the EXTERNAL VUCA factors – creating a HYPER-VUCA condition … CHAOS indeed.  Sometimes these internal VUCA factors are deep-seeded in the organization’s culture and can range from hard-riveted silos, steadfast holding onto “the way we have always done it” stubbornness, inadequate and often inaccurate information platforms or aberrant leadership behavior demeaning organizational spirit and values.

There are many sources of internal VUCA that often show up in THE VUCA REPORT™ pulse surveythat we have been tracking for two years as well our ORGANIZATIONAL AGILITY PROFILE™.  These are called out as people, process or technology obstacles that inhibit better and faster nimbleness and adaptability … aka your agility.  Some of these obstacles are chronic and have been around a long time.  Others are newly sprouted as the speed of business accelerates and can cause spontaneous chaos for those who do not anticipate change well.  We invite you to take THE VUCA REPORT™ survey yourself and share your experiences and perspectives along with the almost 1,000 others who have so far.

We are operating in a world filled with consequences and high performance expectations.  The impact of time compression where daily expectations are for faster results and decisions combined with the reality that “the way we used to do it” is becoming obsolete at warp speed – conspire to freeze and paralyze those who are FRAGILE and sets the table for those who are AGILE.  Darwin actually said its about “survival of the most adaptable”.  You will find many tools and insights throughout our website to help you move from the fragile zone to the agile zone.

There are numerous examples of organizations becoming stymied by their own Internal VUCA.  UBER is a recent example of a darling company with seemingly magic touch … then spiraled into whirlpool of internal VUCA around leadership behavior.  Certainly the high profile scandals at ENRON, WorldCom and Lehmann Brothers represented out of control internal VUCA.  Unfortunately, there has been significant amounts of Internal VUCA impacting the effectiveness and agenda at the White House and Congress.  Hopefully, the appointment of General Kelly this week will bring an experienced leader very familiar with all forms of VUCA along with the leadership acumen and discipline to minimize internal VUCA and help build better and faster capabilities to get important things accomplished.  As in any organizations, internal VUCA distracts and undermines organizational performance.

As many of you begin your 2018 business planning cycles, it is an excellent time to examine and evaluate your forces of change and the VUCA impacting your success.  What are those External VUCA factors that you must face and overcome?  What are those INTERNAL VUCA factors that may be undermining and sapping your energy, resources and focus?  Take a look at our ORGANIZATIONAL AGILITY PROFILE™ and work with your leadership team on these questions.  I will be interested in how the conversation flow progresses.  Always remember, as my partner Mike Richardson says … the right conversation flow leads to cash flow!

Love to get your feedback and perspectives on your sources of INTERNAL VUCA and what you are doing.

DO YOU HAVE YOUR VUCA NIGHT GOGGLES?

Have you ever looked through a pair of night goggles when it is pitch black dark?

It really is quite amazing what you can see.  Things appear that are otherwise completely invisible to your unaided eyes.  These are invaluable tools for use by military forces as well as wild game hunters.  Night vision goggles work by using image enhancement technology that collects all the available light, including infrared light, and amplifies it so that you can easily see what’s going on in the dark.

Often these night vision goggles are used to help us identify or discover potentially disruptive creatures (sometimes human and sometimes not).  Recently, I participated in a very interesting meeting with some colleagues in another learning and consulting company. We discussed various ways of anticipating change and discovering the forces of disruptive change coming at us,  i.e. the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA) that surrounds us.  This idea of night goggles came to mind.

Sometimes I think it would be very helpful if there were a corporate variety of vision enhancing technology – ways for helping leaders to “see” what is happening in and around their organizations that often stays invisible.  There are many amazing technology solutions for many things – I have my doubts whether we can simplify this equation enough to reduce it to an app or new device.  In the absence of such off-the-shelf solutions, business leaders will need to rely on training their perspectives and building awareness of the kind of questions and resources that can to help them recognize where their disruptive change is coming from next.

That is the essence of THE VUCA REPORT – a global collaborative pulse survey we launched two years ago in an effort to help us all better identify, recognize and understand the disruptive forces of change coming at us faster and faster each day. Just like with night vision goggles, as you begin to explore the right questions you can begin to see things you may not have seen before.  In THE VUCA REPORT,  we have been tracking 35 disruptive factors categorized in the areas of  technological advances, economic dynamics, environmental & social issues, geopolitical dynamics, regulatory & cyber security issues and a collection of issues grouped as workforce dynamics.

What is additionally interesting are the open-ended questions we ask …

  • What practices are you doing NOW that are helping you counter the effects of VUCA? 
  • What practices have you seen others do or that you plan to do in the FUTURE?
  • What do you see as the OBSTACLES standing in the way of making improvements in your agility?

Lastly, THE VUCA REPORT has been collecting data about the extent to which leaders believe they have the essential agility capabilities in their organizations to counter the effects of the VUCA context and navigate the future with success.  Those capabilities map out on THE AGILE MODEL® as outlined below:

As we all face the VUCA that lies ahead, it will become increasingly essential that we become better equipped with organizational night goggles or at least a better lens and skills to face this otherwise daunting future.  The capability areas outlined above give us a good roadmap for discussion and self-examination.

  • How are you doing in the area of Anticipating Change … do you keep getting surprised by your customers and competitors and sometimes even your employees?
  • How well are you Generating Confidence internally with your teams and externally with your investors, customers and suppliers?
  • How effective are you at Initiating Action on the right things – making decisions better and faster at all levels in your organization?
  • How pervasive is the drive for fresh, innovative thinking (FIT) across your organization?
  • How well does your whole team know and understand how to Evaluate Results and what real success means for all?

As leaders begin to regularly examine and prosecute these kind of questions (and more), they begin to SEE things in their organizations that they did NOT see before.  They begin to see the obstacles AND the enablers for becoming better and faster at those things that really matter.  In the south, there is an old saying “when the water level is low – the stumps will show”.  Don’t wait until your water level is too low from not adapting as needed to stay competitive and agile.  Use these AGILITY GOGGLES to see into your people, processes and technology domains and discover the opportunities for becoming more FOCUSED, FAST & FLEXIBLE … aka AGILE.

I look forward to hearing your feedback and perspectives about the lens and questions you think will help illuminate the next practices for countering the effects of VUCA in your world and helping you create the agility advantage.

DISCOVERING AGILITY IN “THE OPEN ORGANIZATION”

“Whenever I talk with leaders of companies in (all) industries …  I hear a consistent theme: Frustration that they can’t move FAST enough, given the organizations they have, to stay competitive.  They know that capabilities like SPEED and AGILITY are becoming the core of competitive advantage …”. 

This is the context for why Jim Whitehurst, CEO of the $2B Raleigh, NC based open source software leader called Red Hat, wrote the book entitled THE OPEN ORGANIZATION and shares his open source code of operating principles that have helped make Red Hat incredibly successful by all measures. Not bad to generate $2 Billion in annual sales revenue and yet have a market value of over $10 Billion.  Lots of positive things have to be aligned and sustainable to generate that combination.

Whitehurst took over as CEO at Red Hat back in 2008 after a successful turnaround run as COO of Delta Airlines.  As he was being recruited to join and lead Red Hat, it was clear that the culture of an “open organization” already existed at Red Hat therefore required a significant transformation from Whitehurst to move from more traditional command and control zone to what at first felt like a totally out of control zone. It makes perfect sense that the company founded and built on the premise and manifesto of an “open source”, hyper-collaborative model of software development would instill those same tenets into how they develop and operate their organization as well.

The juggernaut to Red Hat success has been the capacity to connect all the dots – their people (both internal and external), purpose and passion in an energized ecosystem of a high engagement, full contact, transparent, authentic operating system that thrives on innovation, speed and accomplishment.  Some might call that culture – but it really is so much more … smart and activated culture or maybe enabled, dynamic culture.  Or maybe just an open organization.

Cultivating passion does not come naturally to all leaders – for many it requires a super conscious effort to give themselves and others permission and encouragement to show the emotional involvement needed to make it real.  Whitehurst’s leadership tips for leaders looking to create a more passionate, open organization:

  1. Passion is contagious … is yours positive, evident and noticeable for others to follow?
  2. Is there a clearly stated purpose or mission … real purpose (beyond profits) fuels real passion?
  3. Add passionate words to your vocabulary … like love, excited, amazing … what evokes positive future sense?
  4. Look to hire folks that are passionate … questions like – what are you passionate about … what inspires you?
  5. Create regular vehicles for people to show their “unvarnished” passion … outings, team building events, etc.

Red Hat believes in a different starting point than the traditional hierarchical organization … turning the typical pyramid upside down and placing their emphasis on the Purpose (WHY) along with a much more AGILE and engaged operating method (HOW) to achieve extraordinary outcomes (WHAT).

 

This organizational model is much better suited for the rampant change and extraordinary speed of play in the business world today … and tomorrow.  As we outline in our book, Focused, Fast & Flexible: Creating Agility Advantage in a VUCA World, organizational success starts with the strength of your Core Belief System.  At Red Hat, their core belief system is nurtured, massaged, activated and energized everyday which makes it stronger, truer and more potent as a success enabler with nuclear capacity to attract and retain a full network of talented contributors … a community of success.

The Open Organization and the Agile Organization share more than core belief systems – they share the realization that activated and empowered organizations need tools and capabilities to support decision making ownership and speed expected from all levels in the organization.  Interestingly, both of us also promote the use of a simple yet elegant decision making tool first introduced by AF Colonel John Boyd back in the Korean War called the OODA LOOP.  The OODA Loop framework (Observe, Orient, Decide & Act)  enables rapid and rigorous engagement to support decisions and action closest to the front lines of customer engagement.  Click the link above for more background on OODA.

So, how are you doing in your organization in all of these dimensions? I encourage you to take a deeper look at The Open Organization and challenge yourselves on what you can learn from this open source of success.  You will find the combination of our two frameworks to be quite complimentary. You can take a free self-assessment to explore your Organizational Agility Profile as well.

I would love to get your thoughts and feedback as always.

About Tom O’Shea

Volatile, unpredictable, even erratic- these are the times we live in and exactly why Tom O’Shea is considered a trusted advisor and collaborator helping leaders, teams and organizations adapt and thrive by becoming more focused, fast and flexible in an increasingly complex and ambiguous world.

As Principal at Agility Consulting and Training, Tom brings a unique blend of strategic, operational and organizational expertise and support that is rare and valuable.  With perceptive insight, proven strategies and impactful coaching skills, he helps clients at the enterprise, team and individual leader levels exceed even their own expectations. Learn more about Tom here. 

CREATING AGILITY SUPER HEROES?

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MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU!

Or since today is STAR WARS DAY … May the Fourth be with you. Anyone living and alert in the past couple of decades will undoubtably recognize the exhortation …may the “force” be with you!  The STAR WARS phenomenon has dominated the big screen as well as the follow-on merchandising bonanza for many, many years.  John Lucas and Steven Spielberg have been the “masters of the universe” in creating powerful images, animation and memorable characters for years on end!

The notion of SUPER HEROES is captivating, especially so for our young people who have grown up (and even those still in process) with full color, 3D animated and virtual reality … like my two grandsons who are obsessed with the super hero identity. Just like your kids, grandkids, nieces or nephews – my two MUST dress up as super heroes every single day – even as they swap out the actual character.  My 3 year old grandson was even recently captured in full super hero costume whispering to his 3 month old baby sister … “Don’t worry, I will protect you”!

This past week, I was able to spend a full week opening up a new, extraordinary client with one of my super-hero partners, Mike Richardson – based in the greater San Diego wine country (nice).  Our client is a major player in the interactive entertainment industry and routinely designs, programs and packages incredible super-hero epic experiences!  We worked with some of their emerging leaders  doing two day Team Agility workshops in their southern and northern California operating centers.

We helped introduce them to some of the concepts and “super powers” that truly AGILE organizations build to help them speed by their competition, create extraordinary “vision” across their enterprise worlds and even finding the strength and power to defeat the most formidable opponents.  In large, globally distributed organizations it can also sometimes feel like our interdependent teammates at other locations are almost like aliens on different planets with different cultures and speaking different languages (even when it is the same).

Over the more than fifteen years that we have been dedicated to understanding the idea of agility, we have discovered that the most extraordinary super powers that leaders, teams and organizations can build to capture real, sustainable competitive advantage (maybe even dominance) – can be framed as the capacity to become more FOCUSED, FAST & FLEXIBLE than all the rest of the “would be” super heroes.

The real “breakthrough” capabilities that matter most can be called the AGILITY FORCE™ … the power to Anticipate Change like you have SUPERMAN’S incredible vision, the ability to Generate Confidence for any battle like you are CAPTAIN AMERICA;  the speed for Initiating Action like you are THE FLASH; the capacity to Liberate Thinking like YODA; and of course the super-capacity to generate and Evaluate Results like LUKE SKYWALKER.  All of these superpowers are captured and framed in THE AGILE MODEL®.

If you want to find out the secrets to cracking the AGILITY CODE … you will have to contact us on the special frequency … the Agility Bat phone, Green Lantern beam … or just send us an email to set up a call?  What are the super powers you need to adapt and thrive in the VUCA world?   We have some insight on this topic … let’s talk.

MAY THE AGILITY FORCE BE WITH YOU!

Customer Focused Agility

Easter is always a good time for reflection on the things that matter most.  Living in North Carolina makes Easter-time extra special with the full bloom and aroma of colorful azaleas, dogwoods, flower beds of irises and of course, fragrant Easter Lilies.  For many, Easter is also filled with special services and reminders of the kind of “operating principles” that help lead meaningful, purpose-driven lives.

One of those reminders comes in the form of a wristband that some wear with the initials … WWJD … “what would Jesus do”?  These wristbands became popular over the years in youth groups and retreats as a guide to help young people facing tough choices of teenage years. The symbolism in those wristbands is as a reminder for a set of core beliefs, mindset and values for shaping a way of life.

Something similar came to mind recently as I was working with a client on how to accelerate the value drivers in his business transformation from being just another "average player" in the industry to the hallowed ground of being the “most customer centric and responsive” player in the industry.  As I waited for him to return to his office, I noticed his white board filled with lists, graphs and mission critical decisions to be made.  For some reason, I pulled out a blank piece of paper and wrote these letters, WWC³D, and placed the paper as a banner atop the white board.

My client came in and sat down at the conference table in his office and noticed something different about his white board.  He looked over to me with a puzzled look as his rapid processor was working through possible solutions to the mystery.  He got the syntax right away but struggled with the C³  meaning … so I broke the code by saying … Customer Centric Company.

The header for the white board begged the question … WHAT WOULD A CUSTOMER CENTRIC COMPANY DO?  As any behavior modification scientist or psychologist would tell you - if you are trying to shape new behaviors, there must be constant awareness of the desired mode and a means of getting real-time feedback, bio-feedback if you will, to reinforce the desired behavior.  The implications for your transformation comes down to CHOICES.

•Are you aspiring to be the MOST customer-centric player in your industry or just an above average CC player?

•Are you planning to partition this behavior and reserve it ONLY for when you are meeting customers at trade shows, or do you mean it for everything your company does  as a regular operating system?

•How do you define customers?  Are they only the external bill paying variety, or do they include your employees, suppliers, investors and resource partners?

•Do these C³ behaviors only apply to the sales team or executive team, or do they apply for everyone?  Who should be wearing the wristband and making a PIVOT in their thinking and acting?

•How will you monitor and learn how your team is doing in this transformation?  Is there a rapid-resolution C³ Genius Bar or GEEK SQUAD to help figure out C³ solutions?

Customer Focused Agility is not an easy level to reach … but the ROA (return on agility) for getting there can be significant in the form of  higher Net Promoter scores from customers, higher win rates on new programs, higher levels of team engagement and retention … ultimately higher growth and mutual profitability rates according to MIT Sloan School business agility study.

As you begin to face your next round of tough strategic choices, what are the key questions that you should ask to help you look through the lens of a Customer Centric Company?  Maybe it will even be worth doing some scenario planning … looking at your normal way of looking at things vs. the Customer Centric Company way of looking at things and making decisions.    Evaluating the differences in outcomes should also make for interesting conversation.

I welcome your feedback and perspective … especially any success stories that can help shed some light on new ideas.

DO YOU KNOW YOUR AGILITY DEFAULT SETTINGS?

HELP … our worlds are dominated with new technology and devices that are trying to control our lives!  Well, at least that is how I feel sometimes … just ask my daughter Meaghan who helps me with most of my technology related questions and issues. I hope you each have a Meaghan to help you in your challenging technology worlds. 

Over the past year, mostly at Meaghan’s behest, I finally crossed over from the PC world into a fully MAC ecosystem.  I already had an iPad and an iPhone … so making the complete transformation to a “seamless” technology world made sense.  In doing so, I had to learn another language and discovered the need to set a whole new lexicon of default settings and “preferences”. 

As I worked my way through this learning process, largely by trial and error, I would regularly have to search for solutions and would periodically discover new gateways to answers to reduce the frustration associated with learning a new operating system.  It recently dawned on me that this is very much like what many people in organizations today … especially those entering new employment ecosystems.  Their changes are much more significant than simply moving from PC, Android or Mac operating systems but make no mistake – each organization has it’s own operating system.  Some are highly effective and efficient …. but some are like VISTA which had many flaws and kept breaking down at inopportune times. 

As we explore the nature of organizations and shape how they operate in today’s faster paced VUCA world, some are adapting and thriving but more are struggling to recognize the right issues to address.  Last week, Nick Horney, one of my partners and the founding principal at Agility Consulting, shared a good roadmap for how to make sense of your organizational climate and priorities in his article BUSINESS AGILITY DEEP DIVE

We all have been learning about how to find and set the default settings and preferences with all of our technology devices.  For example, what channel do you want your TV to be on when you first turn it on?  What font color, size and style do you want your emails to use?  What ringtone do you prefer and do you want to set different ringtones to differentiate your callers?  The list of possibilities is endless in our burgeoning “have it my way” consumer world. 

The question is … are we learning to discover and set the right “default settings and preferences” in our operating systems at work?  These factors relate to how our leaders and team members behave, how our business teams interact and how our organizations succeed … or not?  It would be nice if could have a table of default settings and preferences we could click the switch and set our preferences. 

Even more important is understanding the right modalities in the operating system.  Your TV modalities include picture, sound, connectivity, etc.  Some of the right modalities to consider in organizations include the workforce personality profile – much like what we describe in our Agility Personality Profile dimensions.  Are we selecting and developing our team members who are focused, proactive, confident, optimistic and inquisitive?  Are we building organizational capabilities to make agility a competitive advantage as guided by The Agile Model® to anticipate change, generate confidence, initiate action, liberate thinking and evaluate results … all better and faster than others. 

Question remains – what are your default settings and what are the important preferences to help you and your organization be successful.  Our assessments and tools provide you insightful frameworks to examine, diagnose and discover whether there are key inflection points in your leaders, teams and business units along with HOW to accentuate the modalities that matter.  Love to hear your feedback and invite you to participate in discussion – what has been your perspective and experience? 

Ready to SHIFT Your VUCA to VUCA Prime?

Whew! 2017 has certainly taken the VUCA WORLD to some new levels over the past few months.  The stock markets have reached all time highs and yet the VUCA index may also be at an all time high as well.  It is easy to point to many examples of the growing volatility (e.g. North Korea), uncertainty (e.g. Russian activities), complexity (e.g. future of healthcare) and ambiguity (e.g. finding one version of the truth).

What also seems to exacerbate all the dynamics in this turbulent world is the growing polarization and hardening of perspectives on so many fronts … this tends to make open discussion, trust, collaboration and cooperation harder than ever before.  While these dynamics play out on the global stage … many of them are also confounding everyday organizational life as well since it is difficult to partition the tensions, fears and frustrations that exist in various segments of life.

A few years ago Bob Johansen, distinguished fellow at the Institute for the Future, developed an effective leadership framework as a “VUCA counterweight” he called VUCA PRIME. Kirk Lawrence, an Executive Education Program Director at the UNC-CH Kenan-Flagler School of Business, does a good job of outlining the VUCA/VUCA Prime leadership corollaries in a 2013 white paper entitled LEADING IN A VUCA WORLD.  Lawrence also extensively referenced a People & Strategy Journal article that ACT Partner Nick Horney and I wrote in 2010 with Bill Pasmore, Columbia University Professor and SVP at the Center for Creative Leadership …”Leadership Agility: A Business Imperative for a VUCA World”.  I think that you will find that this article provides that provides additional valuable insights.

Johansen’s VUCA PRIME (VP) calls for leaders to focus on building Vision, Understanding, Clarity and Agility as the pathway to coping and overcoming the daunting and somewhat paralyzing impacts of the VUCA WORLD.  I would go so far as even suggesting that VP represents the core of a real executive job description and key accountabilities.  Johansen says, Volatility can be countered with Vision as leaders provide and reinforce the way forward and navigate the turbulence to achieve success.  As any good skipper knows, you always strive to define your point of sail by compass setting or a fixed landmark to help guide helmsmen and crew …  no matter the conditions. Vision requires explicitness to answer the seminal three questions … Why are we here? How will we be successful? What are our success measures?

From Vision comes the opportunity to transform Uncertainty to Understanding bringing all team members into a shared mindset and understanding of how they can contribute to success along with the key operating principles that will promote active communication and widespread involvement practices.  As with any transformation that aims to shape new individual and team behaviors, continual and consistent two-way communication is essential.  It’s not just talking at folks - it must involve active listening to gain as well as give understanding.  Capturing the key elements of Vision to include core values, strategies and success measures into a broadly communicated and engaged Strategy Map that is alive, interactive and dynamic helps fuel continual understanding … it is not a once and done campaign.  It is a living, breathing and intrinsic way of leading and believing.

Complexity can be countered by Clarity that comes from building disciplines around the core basics, constantly reinforcing the real  priorities and avoiding the cul de sacs of non-value added activities.  Dedication to being truly customer-centric and staying connected to giving and getting internal and external customer feedback can eradicate unnecessary complexity. The VUCA world brings tremendous complexity everyday - so organizations must be mindful of not creating mountains of internal complexity and keep a shared commitment to simplicity.  Clarity can come from re-examining and rebooting your meeting regimens and ownership (why does it exist and who responsible for its quality?).  A major opportunity area to reduce complexity and increase clarity relates to your internal information and data integrity.  How many versions of the “truth” exist within your organization. I have one client that recently concluded they needed to call for “TRUTH SUMMIT” … a collaborative workday with cross-functional “senators” tasked to define “one version of the truth” so all functions can work off the same set of assumptions. Sure would be useful in Washington these days.

Finally, Ambiguity can be countered with Agility!  Changing the metronome of organizational cadence from a slow “schmaltzy” waltz to more of a riverdance-like jig (like at my recent St. Pat’s Party) will help invigorate the energy to search and destroy the swamps of ambiguity that we often tolerate by creating a faster iteration cycle to sense and respond throughout the organization.  Here is where THE AGILE MODEL® kicks into bring a real roadmap for building agility.  Organizations that systematically examine, measure (e.g. using our AGILITY ANALYTICS) and then strengthen leadership and organizational behaviors using our development guides, coaching and interactive workshops find themselves in a position to make their AGILITY a competitive advantage in this increasing fast-paced VUCA WORLD.  Agility with your leaders, teams and business units can be effectively measured and charted using visual heat-maps to clearly highlight and locate your gaps.

So, how are you doing in creating Vision, Understanding, Clarity and Agility in your organization? 

Take a look at some of the free self-assessments you can use for yourself and your teams in the Agility Analytics link above.  You will get an email copy of your results along with some links to some of our free articles based your responses. The one CERTAINTY we all can agree on is that our future world will continue to get faster, more turbulent, and much more VUCA!  The question is … what are you prepared to do about it for yourself and your team?  Love to hear your thoughts.

THE SYNCHRONICITY OF AGILITY

So what are some of the thoughts and images that come to mind when I say the word SYCHRONIZED?  For some, like my daughter Meaghan, I will bet it could be swimming … she was on the Synchronized Swimming team in college and to this day it remains her favorite Olympic sport.  For others, it might mean NASCAR and the latest incredible photo finish at the Daytona 500 made possible by the amazingly fast and furious pit crews replacing worn tires and slurping high octane fuel into gas tanks as the vehicle speeds back into the race.

For me, I think of the America’s Cup Sailing teams cranked to the high performance edge of disaster and awaiting the captain’s shout to “shift the jib” which will unleash a flurry of human activity that appears to be chaos in motion but actually finely tuned to release, shift, sheet-in and tie down a combination of genoa, spinnaker and possibly a main sail at precisely the “right” moment to pivot to the next tact on their way to hopefully win the competition.  Seconds matter and a minor flutter can result in a major flounder.

SYNCHRONICITY – is one of the six key Agility Operating Principles – along with speed, simplicity, scalability, connectivity and fluidity that will help build more aerodynamics in your business and help reduce some of the “drag” that keeps you from being better and faster.  In our lexicon, operating principles represent part of the algorithm in how you engineer agility into your business model or organization.  These are most closely aligned with The Agile Model® driver – INITIATE ACTION and especially the BIAS FOR ACTION capability.

Many organizations want to build greater sense of urgency or “bias for action” but do not take the more clinical step of examining … what is preventing us from operating with a collective urgency all the time?  Each of these operating principles exposes or informs some of those obstacles if you probe and ask the right questions … where does speed matter most?  What and where does our organizational dexterity or synchronicity either help us or hurt us the most?  Where do we have key cross-functional “hand-offs” or inter-dependencies … that either are winning us championships or causing us painful defeats?

Examples of great synchronicity involve when the product development team completes their market research, prototype development and sample production ON-TIME to then train, educate and equip the sales team to confidently go-to-market at the annual trade show where all the category buyers are present and make their big purchase decisions.  Could simply mean that the senior leadership finally completed their strategic planning session early enough to give the rest of the organization the right kind of guidance to inform their budgeting process.  Getting at least to this synchronization might actually help them ratchet next year to a higher level of FAST STRATEGY and a more fluid planning process.

MATRIX ORGANIZATIONS have been operating for more than twenty years now and they often are the battlefield of failed synchronicity.  Unclear roles and responsibilities; obscure decision-rights; weak ethic of cooperation and low collaboration team aptitudes in critical skill areas (e.g. real-time communication, influencing, conflict management, project management, problem-solving and decision-making); unclear integrated business calendar requirements or time-based expectations.  These are all some of the common and almost universal short-comings in most stale matrix organizations that have not been tuned up for the Agile World.

Our book, Focused, Fast & Flexible: Creating Agility Advantage in a VUCA World – helps to further illuminate the dynamics, tools and approaches that can help any leader strengthen the key drivers, capabilities and operating principles that will help you adapt and thrive at the speed of business today … and get ready for tomorrow.

Love to get your feedback and learn about your stories involving WHY SYNCHRONICITY MATTERS!

SUPER BOWL AGILITY: GENERATING CONFIDENCE

SUPER BOWL LI will always be remembered as the super bowl of major turnaround and “transformation”.  I am not sure how many millions of folks concluded that the game “was over” at half-time with the score 21-3 in favor of the Falcons from Atlanta over the perennial winning New England Patriots from Boston.

So, all there was left to do was watch the acrobatic, energetic Lady GaGa at half-time and move on … especially when the Falcons scored first in the second half to make the score 28-3!  No team had EVER come back from more than a 10 point deficit in the history of the Super Bowl … so a 25 point deficit clearly signaled “game over”.

So, what happened during the halftime break to cause such a dramatic PIVOT with the Patriots? Clearly they came out a highly resilient, focused and determined group of men who began executing in a noticeably different way than the first two quarters.  No more dropped passes.  No more leaking offense line protection.  Resurgent running attack coupled with a re-energized defensive team that suddenly looked like they remembered what it takes to win championships. A worn out Atlanta defense helped also.

I am sure there were many factors involved – but clearly one word that applies is CONFIDENCE.  They reclaimed a sense of confidence that they knew how to be champions and what it takes to win.  Reports have it that some of the veterans stood tall and reminded the newer teammates that they had been in these games before and had the quarterback that knows how to win … if the rest of us do our job.  It was an extraordinary display of team confidence grounded with a foundation of excellence in execution … and I am actually not a Patriots fan but have to admire the discipline involved.

Generating Confidence, in my view, is the #1 priority for leaders and an on-going challenge.  In my travels and work with clients, I get to see lots of examples of leaders who do this very well … and more leaders who still have much work to do.  Our VUCA world and its speed of play are a constant battering ram trying to tear down confidence and weaken the resilience of leaders and their teams.

Just like a world class athlete, it is essential that leaders keep working actively to stay fit in the leadership muscles and skills that build authentic trust and confidence … speaking ground truth far and wide, creating transparency, enabling growth and empowerment of teams, fostering active decision-making at all levels, recognizing, developing and rewarding positive values-based behaviors and creating accountability for success throughout the organization.

Generating Confidence in our THE AGILE MODEL involves building real capabilities and  culture for connecting, aligning and engaging all associates, customers, supply partners, communities and stakeholders into an ecosystem to shape future success of the enterprise.  When you have this in place, then you have the potential to win championships in your own space … in the best way.  It’s all part of what we call … BEING YOUR AGILE BEST.

Love to hear your perspective and stories about how CONFIDENCE transformed the day in your world.

AGILITY = SIMPLICITY

WHAT IS YOUR 2017 NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION?  

I bet many of you have some version of “simplifying your life” somewhere in your 2017 resolutions list … I know  I do.  Complexity continues to grow exponentially in all walks of life and has been a mega-trend for some time.  Combined with the rampant acceleration in the pace of everything, this complexity leads to a daunting sense of anxiety and occasional panic for many.  As we start this new year, it is a good time to stop, reflect and attempt to rebalance your scales.

At the start of every year,  I love looking back over the legendary singer and songwriter Woody Guthrie’s New Year Resolutions from back in 1943.   I shared them in one of my blogs a couple years ago … but think they are worth repeating.  I love how Woody gets down to the real basics in life … like “stay glad” or “learn people better” as he attempts to rebalance his scales.

As I travel about, I see many organizations who have gotten all wrapped up in their own complexity – often losing sight of the most basic tenets that helped them grow and be successful in the first place.  The start of any year is a good time for all of us to rebalance our scales and “reboot” our teams … much the same way and why you might reboot your computer.  Our computer devices get so bogged down with overloaded cache from downloads, cookies (not the edible type) we haven’t cleared out and temporary “short-cuts” in our operating systems causing them to act and respond very slow while using a great amount of resources.

The same thing happens in our organizations as, during the course of the year, we pile on information overload, launch a multitude of over cooked (and sometimes conflicting) initiatives and allow constant “by-passing” of standard operating procedures with “temporary short-cuts” designed to “fast track” things. Many of these practices leave totally dazed and confused organizations that act and respond very slow using a great amount of resources.  And as leaders, we often wonder how did that happen and  why?  

In our 2015 book, Focused, Fast & Flexible: Creating Agility Advantage in a VUCA World, we outline seven operating principles for supporting and sustaining agility that include: simplicity, speed, synchronicity, fluidity, modularity, and scalability.  Simplicity is a good place to start as you look to REBOOTING yourself and your team to face the challenges of 2017.  You might consider getting your team re-grounded and energized by engaging them in discussion about … why are we here (our central purpose), how will we be successful this year (our core enablers) and what will be the outcomes we aim to achieve for our journey this year (vision for our success).

What obstacles or complexity (or drag) can we eliminate to make our success and team more aerodynamic?  You might use those seven operating principles as a framework for exploring your aerodynamics … probing into discussion about where and how much more speed of play do we  need to build?  How can we become more synchronous across our functions?  Where do we find fits and starts and lack fluidity in how we do business?  How can we create more plug and place modularity in our business model … maybe exploring The Gig Economy concepts?  Which parts of our business growth require greater and faster scalability?  All very rich and potentially powerful conversation flow.   

Yves Morieux from BCG shared a good TED talk a couple years ago where he spoke about his Six Rules to Simplicity … this is worthwhile to watch and explore how his six rules might be opportunity areas for you and your team to rethink and re-engineer for simplicity.  Many of us are discovering the joy and elegance to be found through simplification. 

How can you make this a positive year for you and your team?  Every step you take to help ratchet yourself and your organization to become more agile – helps you come closer to making your agility a real competitive advantage.  I would love to hear about the outcomes of your discussions as well as your 2017 Resolutions and thoughts.  

AGILITY – BEING YOUR BEST

This past weekend I attended the 2016 National Conference for the Institute of Management Consultants (IMC) in Washington D.C. and it triggered the reminder of my long term commitment to a simple but formative phrase … being your best.  This phrase captures a mentality and gift from my father, son of an immigrant from Ireland who came through Ellis Island looking for a chance for a better life.   As I arrived in Washington last Thursday, I first stopped at Arlington Cemetery where both my mother and father reside because of his thirty year career in the Navy.  Coincidently, it turns out that day was the 26th anniversary of his passing.  You cannot go to Arlington Cemetery and not come away with the reminder of how many “gave their best” for our freedom and security.

The conference included keynotes from two of the most renowned management consultants in Peter Block – author of Flawless Consulting and Alan Weiss – author of Million Dollar Consulting and many more.  It was definitely an excellent opportunity to get a glimpse of what the “best” looks like in my profession.  It was a clear reminder of how important it is for all of us to reset our calipers of what being the best actually involves. This awareness is also so very relevant to our business clients as they try and calibrate “how good” should we strive to become and why?

BEING YOUR BEST is a mindset that fuels a free standing belief system for continuous improvement.  Why? Because nothing less will satisfy those committed to being the best.  As my children (and others) will attest, this goes back even to days of coaching their teams in youth soccer.   Winning or losing was less important that doing your best for yourself and the team.  Whenever we used to place our thumbs and index fingers into that triangle shape … it was a non-verbal reminder that what mattered most was playing with your head, heart and guts … we called it grit and its all about being your best. I don’t use exactly those same terms with my business clients and coaching charges this days … but it actually is very much the same thing.  Being driven to be your best … always.

Throughout this weekend, I strived to sharpen my axe … learning from the world famous guru’s as well as my other highly talented IMC colleagues from all over the globe.  The opportunities to learn new content, techniques and style were abundant.  I also had the opportunity to share insights and experiences since I was chosen to serve on two distinguished discussion panels … one on being a Thought Leader and one on Consulting at a Higher Level.

Alan Weiss gave the closing keynote and definitely further reinforced everything I had already conjured up – like the icing on the cake.  Alan spoke about generating confidence in ourselves and our consulting ecosystem – even if not using those terms.  For me, that is what being your best is all about … enabling all of your clients and community of practice to be the best and always striving to improve yourself.  It is an on-going journey for all of us.

I once had the privilege of doing leadership coaching with a series of country managers for a well-known global consumer products company.  I think i may have gotten as much nourishment from one particular executive in India as I provided him.  Ajit was the head of consumer and governmental affairs and he told me that he was in process of writing his book entitled “Being My Best Self”.

We had great conversation exploring the concept and meaning of your “best self”.  What does that look like and how does it feel when you are in that zone?  What are the benefits and obstacles to staying in the space?  Discovering the insights from such reflection can help feed what Mahatma Gandhi once defined as “true happiness” … when what you think, what you say and what you do … are all the same thing.  I am thinking that comes close to describing what Ajit meant by “being” his best self.

I believe both leaders and organizations become more aerodynamic when grounded by their core belief system and values.  Their vision and pathway for success becomes clearer and helps them think, believe and act in accordance.  The keys to success – clarity, unity and agility.

Agility Comes to DC!

Wow … if only it could be true … now more than ever before.  It is only fitting that the 2016 National Conference for the Institute of Management Consultants (IMC) will be held in Washington, DC from October 21-23.  IMC is the premier global professional association for serious-minded consultants to management across the globe.  So, there is a gaggle of management consulting problem-solvers descending on our nations capital later this week … unfortunately the issues outweigh the flock.

We live in the VUCA era … volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.  As such, IMC is a great international resource for trusted advisors on many topics.  In this time of great uncertainty around integrity, ethics and professional behavior, I think it is also reaffirming and comforting to know that there are organizations like IMC which also has the only ISO sanctioned certification process for its Certified Management Consultants designation (CMC) which includes a strong ethics dimension.  I am proud to have earned and maintained my CMC for more than 10 years now and also to have been twice President of the Carolinas Chapter of the Institute for Management Consultants.

I will be speaking on two different panel of experts sessions during the conference - Thought Leadership and Consulting at a Higher Level.  I am honored to have been selected for both of these topics which is also a sign that what we have been doing at Agility Consulting has been relevant and impactful.

Going to Washington this week … and especially as we are only a few weeks away from a pivotal election (in many ways), it reminds me of an article I wrote a few years ago entitled WHAT IF THE USA WERE AGILE.  Let me invite you to share your thoughts and perspectives on the benefits and obstacles to the USA becoming a more agile country … again.

 

About Tom O'Shea

Volatile, unpredictable, even erratic- these are the times we live in and exactly why Tom O’Shea is considered a trusted advisor and collaborator helping leaders, teams and organizations adapt and thrive by becoming more focused, fast and flexible in an increasingly complex and ambiguous world.

As Principal at Agility Consulting and Training, Tom brings a unique blend of strategic, operational and organizational expertise and support that is rare and valuable.  With perceptive insight, proven strategies and impactful coaching skills, he helps clients at the enterprise, team and individual leader levels exceed even their own expectations. Learn more about Tom here. 

ARE YOU READY TO REBOOT?

Whenever my computer begins to freeze up and its clear that it is overloaded and not able to respond to my commands … I know it is time to REBOOT.  Reboot is a cleansing action that clears the cache of old, useless information which slows down the operating system performance.  Reboot can also be a refreshing and energizing action that reinvigorates the machine and brings back rapid response sensation.  Pull the plug on the old ways and reinforce the new ways.  Oh, if it were only that easy! Nevertheless, when we feel things spinning out of control or your operating system freezing up – it is worth calling TIME OUT and revisiting THE FOUR ESSENTIALS FOR REBOOTING YOUR OPERATING SYSTEM …

    1. What is your definition of success on this project, in this function or with this enterprise?  Sometimes this comes down to even agreeing on success measures for sub-elements within projects.  Getting all key stakeholders to reaffirm and realign to the primal imperative of success helps us get re-grounded.  When we clarify the frameworks on how we define success – it usually also helps us in Making Sense of our current situation. The clearer everyone can see and understand how to define and measure success, the more self-evident it will be in understanding how you are doing based on that yardstick?
    2. What are your mission critical priorities now becomes the next progressive question in this crucial conversation.  That question starts at the top of the enterprise and cascades down with a series of “therefore” statements.  If THIS is how we define success and if THAT is how we are doing, then THEREFORE “these" must be our mission critical priorities.  Making Priorities better and faster than others is one of the differentiating factors of AGILE teams.
    3. What is your traction plan for each of your mission critical priorities? Just because you are able to make sense of your strategic situation and even create the right priorities in a clinical, analytical way, it still doesn’t earn your team the right to be called AGILE unless you are able to pull it ALL together to Make It Happen … better and faster than your competition.  Getting the right sequence and synchronicity of actions across functional silos is critical for success and not easy.  Maybe the juggernaut for driving success here is the ability to establish strong ownership, accountability and commitment.  Ambiguity is the cancer of operational excellence.  It can foster fuzziness and lead to organizational mediocrity.
    4. Are you staying alert to sense and respond better and faster as team action plans are being finalized and implemented?  Being ready to Make Revisions brings the right dynamic mindset to the team operations.  We know that we will have to tweak success and we are ready to make that happen also.  Operating in a mindset of continuous improvement maintains a continual commitment to success as well as we ratchet ourselves to higher and higher levels of performance.  Don Sull from MIT Sloan School of Business does a nice job of further expounding on these four essentials in his work on strategic agility.

There is an ethic of excellence involved – do all you people share this?  That is always the first place to start in your journey to create Agility as a competitive advantage.  Do we have a shared mindset that values customer-centric and team-centric behavior and thinking?  If not, then it will be a constant battle of instincts and reflexes. Reaffirming your  core belief system and operating principles is an essential ingredient in the successful REBOOT.  Your AGILE 2.0 operating system requires it as a pre-requisite.

 

I look forward to your feedback and discussion.

DOES YOUR CHANGE AGILITY FEEL LIKE GROUND HOG’S DAY?

It feels like we keep re-learning the same lessons every day!  That was the cry from one of my clients a few weeks and it made me think about one of the funnier movies of all time.  Ground Hog’s Day (1993) is a classic comedy with Bill Murray starring as the curmudgeon news weatherman, appropriately named Phil, who begrudgingly travels to Punxsutawney, PA from the big city to film whether the famous groundhog “Punxsutawney Phil” is able to “see his shadow” and thereby make the folklore prediction about the duration of winter. 

The main plot has the egotistical Phil discovering how he is actually perceived by others, especially Rita, his attractive producer played by Andie McDowell.  Phil begins to experiment with out-of-character acts of kindness and notices that Rita responds very differently to the “good” Phil.  Due to some strange phenomenon, however, Phil awakes everyday to discover he is reliving the day before … over and over again and all the acts of kindness have been forgotten. 

Yes, change is hard – transformation even harder. Just as with Bill Murray, leaders can find it very frustrating to put their best efforts into transformation only to see and feel like nothing is changing and it’s the same old patterns – every day.  We discover many lessons as we go along the transformation highway – and recognize that some of our folks are driving alongside and some of our folks aren’t.  When we get discouraged, it’s time to remember that we must be the CEO – Chief Energy Officer providing the team with continuous and consistent positive energy directed toward our shared vision for success. 

The three most important focus areas in building successful transformation involves Clarity, Unity and Agility.  Clarity must be established for the success roadmap for the enterprise and for each component part whether it be functional areas or business units all the way down to individuals.  This usually can’t be done just by one leader so we need to build Unity across the leadership ranks both in terms of the success roadmap but also the operating principles (or rules of engagement as one client likes to call them) for HOW we will work together to be successful. 

Change happens in daily increments – are we progressing or staying the same?  The critical mass that comes from UNITY will make that difference – and the speed depends on leadership transferring the energy to the people.  Agility is the accelerator that enables things to operate “better and faster” as the norm.  It is systematic and builds from the first two conditions.  But it will take some time and depending on the extent of transformation needed – it will feel paint drying for a while.  Even in the midst of what seems like slow/no progress – find ways to celebrate the progress you see and recognize that th ere will be pockets like feel like Ground Hog Days but hopefully fewer and in less significant areas. 

Let me know your favorite movie analogy that helps describe what you see at your organization? Love to hear it.

ARE YOU READY TO TRANSFORM YOUR BUSINESS?

READY OR NOT … HERE IT COMES!  

So, do you remember playing “hide and seek” when you were a kid?  I get to occasionally play with my grandkids even now – a true sign of a timeless game.  The game involves covering your eyes and counting to ten before you come looking for those who have been scampering to hide.  Caeden, my youngest grandson who will be three next month, usually skips some of the numbers while counting and squeals loudly when he finds me hiding behind a bush or tiny tree. Good fun.

Covering your eyes works fine in this kids game – but not so much in the adult business world. The pace of change is so rampant that if you keep your eyes covered too long – you might not recognize the landscape when you are ready to look.  The one thing in common is the callout … ready or not – here it comes!  We often see some leadership teams and key leaders still keeping their eyes covered and not seeing waves of change happening within their organizations.  The October 2016 edition of Harvard Business Review has several excellent reads around the Workforce of the Future and somewhat corresponding implications for why current leadership development strategies are failing

My consulting practice is centered on organizational transformation – how do we help leaders and their teams become better equipped to SHAPE THE FUTURE in an increasingly imbalanced and turbulent working climate.  The challenges and climates are getting tougher all the time – making the need and premium for positive transformation continuously greater also.

The October HBR also includes a useful article with some insights you can use in examining your business model and transformation directions … The Transformative Business Model.  The authors are two professors and the Dean at The University of Cambridge Judge Business School Entrepreneurship Centre and offer six keys to consider as you examine your organizations readiness to be adaptive for future success.  I think these six have application whether you run a local accounting firm, a regional charity or non-profit or global consumer products company – obviously in different ways.

Six Keys to Success for Creating More Transformative Business Model

1. Create a more personalized product or service – Many new models offer products or services that are better tailored than the dominant models to customers’ individual and immediate needs. Companies often leverage technology to achieve this at competitive prices.

2. Create a closed-loop process – Many models replace a linear consumption process (in which products are made, used, and then disposed of) with a closed loop, in which used products are recycled. This shift reduces overall resource costs.

3. Asset sharing – some innovations succeed because they enable the sharing of costly assets—Airbnb allows home owners to share them with travelers, and Uber shares assets with car owners. Sometimes assets may be shared across a supply chain. The sharing typically happens by means of two-sided online marketplaces that unlock value for both sides: I get money from renting my spare room, and you get a cheaper and perhaps nicer place to stay. Sharing also reduces entry barriers to many industries, because an entrant need not own the assets in question; it can merely act as an intermediary.

4. Usage-based pricing – Some models charge customers when they use the product or service, rather than requiring them to buy something outright. The customers benefit because they incur costs only as offerings generate value; the company benefits because the number of customers is likely to grow.

5. A more collaborative ecosystem – Some innovations are successful because a new technology improves collaboration with supply chain partners and helps allocate business risks more appropriately, making cost reductions possible.

6. An agile and adaptive organization – Innovators sometimes use technology to move away from traditional hierarchical models of decision making in order to make decisions that better reflect market needs and allow real-time adaptation to changes in those needs. The result is often greater value for the customer at less cost to the company.

The article does a nice job of recognizing two long-term factors that transformative business models must interact with … either as enablers or obstacles to success.

Do Your Scenario Planning

Whether you are ready to make your business more fully transformative – you will find it productive to use this framework for discussion with your team.  These are six excellent provocative conversations to create (maybe not all at one time) … but you will find that by engaging in the conversation on each of these tracks you will definitely generate ideas for consideration.  Increasingly, leadership brings added value to the enterprise by pushing the envelope and bringing more creativity to the business of leadership.

As Mike Richardson, my good friend and one of my partners says often … Conversation Flow leads to Cash Flow.  What is the quality of the conversations that you are having with your team? I would love to hear your feedback and your thoughts on the topic.

AGILITY WINNERS BELIEVE AND PERSEVERE

AGILITY WINNERS BELIEVE AND PERSEVERE

Have you heard the phrase … “the race is often won or lost before it starts”?  Starting this weekend, we will witness several weeks of races and contests of many different varieties as the 2016 Olympics finally arrives in Brazil.  This phrase might even apply to the entire Olympics with as much controversy, uncertainty and potential drama that could unfold.  Whether your competitive landscape is 100 meters swimming or swimming with the corporate sharks on Main Street, there is one thing that is definitely true … MINDSET MATTERS.

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