MOBILIZING FOR AGILITY – WHAT IS YOUR AQ?

Stephen Hawking was a visionary, futurist and one of the most intelligent humans ever.  We are going to miss his provocative voice and insights.  Surely, Stephen Hawking had a very high IQ and also recognized there are many dimensions of intelligence.

Most of us are familiar with the notion of Emotional Intelligence or EQ and its importance for both leaders and team members operating in this fast paced, turbulent world.  Our EQ relates to the capability of individuals to recognize their own emotions and those of others, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, and manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt to environments or achieve one’s goal.  Daniel Goleman popularized the concept of EQ with his 1995 book also called Emotional Intelligence which built on some pioneering work by Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer.    There are a number of assessments like this one from Toronto based MHS, Inc.  EQ-i 2.0 that can help you and others explore EQ for yourself and others.

David Livermore has done some good work framing up insights and actions around your CQ – Cultural Intelligence defined as the capability to function effectively across national, ethnic, and organizational cultures. As the diversity in our global economy continues to build – no doubt CQ is becoming increasingly important in building our contextual intelligence and facilitating greater team effectiveness.

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Each of these frameworks help build out greater insights for successfully navigating organizational dynamics, relationships and engagement levels – and need all the insights we can muster to overcome the daunting forces of VUCA!  Yet, as we face this increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world, it seems that we need more insights along the lines of what Stephen Hawking was saying … “intelligence is the ability to adapt to change”.  

We might call this our AQ or Agility Quotient meaning the extent of our knowledge and understanding about the dynamics and drivers of adaptability and nimbleness aka our agility?  All of the other Q’s are important contributors to overall success formula – especially as you enhance your Agility Quotient.  The good news is that there are more and more articles, research studies and publications about the dynamics of creating greater leadership and organizational agility than ever before. 

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At Agility Consulting, we have been dedicated to this topic for over 18 years now and there is much you can learn from our work including THE AGILE MODEL®, our Assessments & Analytic Tools, our 2015 book Focused, Fast & Flexible: Creating Agility Advantage in VUCA World and a full library of resources on agility at The Strategic Agility Institute.  There is also a significant amount to be learned from the active agility work by McKinsey & Co and many others.

The key to any kind of intelligence rests with our capacity to leverage it for advancement of our goals and aspirations.  It is good to read and learn about the keys for creating more agility in our lives – our leadership, teams and total enterprises.  It’s better to get MOBILIZED and begin to apply these insights to create positive change … and adapt.

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The future is coming at us faster that we know … digital transformation involving a variety of artificial intelligence (another AQ dimension) are just a couple of examples. Above is a roadmap we use in some of our engagements that highlights some of the critical steps in transformation.  It looks linear – it’s not.  But it definitely starts with finding the burning platform for getting started – mobilizing your energy and commitment to becoming better prepared to face the future and win.  There will definitely be winners and losers as we face this more consequential future. Those with superior AQ2 i.e. those with both greater knowledge and the skill to apply will be among the winners in the AGE OF VUCA.

Will you be FRAGILE or become AGILE?

Love to get your feedback and thoughts.

ARE YOU AN AGILITY PLAYER OR SPECTATOR?

Amen by Andrea O'Shea

We just finished watching another spectacular Masters golf tournament at the “shrine” of professional golf in Augusta, Georgia.   My brother Dan and his wife Andrea had the pleasure of living in Augusta for fifteen years while Dan worked for a multi-media communications company whose founder is one of the members at Augusta National Golf Club – a very exclusive group.

Andrea is a very talented architectural illustrator with a specialty in golf course illustrations.  This painting of the famous 12th hole is the gateway to what is known as “Amen Corner” where championships have been won and lost.  Just ask Jordan Speith about this hole.

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Maybe more than any other golf tournament, the Masters is revered and coveted – the definition of world class signified by the Green Jacket awarded each year to the Masters Champion.

The Masters and Augusta National Golf Club are also famous for their world class guest experience and attention to detail. Being a “spectator” here is to be pampered like nowhere else.

During Masters week, I was speaking with one of my clients, the CEO of a national restaurant chain. We were discussing the dynamics involved in organizational transformation and mobilizing the team.  Like at The Masters, it struck me that there are at least three categories of leaders and team members in most organizations – spectators, commentators and players.

Spectators are those who take a “wait and see” approach to things.  It is very unlikely that they will initiate action or proactively reach out to examine, explore or innovate.  Some will be quick followers chasing after the real players to get up close and personal view on things – but definitely stay behind the ropes and not likely to stick their neck out.

Commentators come in a few varieties.  Some were players, once upon a time, but now tend to just critique others or talk about how we used to do it in the good old days. Others never really were players but either studied other players or gained academic learning.

Not all commentators are negative. In fact, some can bring added enjoyment and insight to the overall experience.  We might call them champions of positive change.  These champions live by the tenets of The Optimist Creed from Optimist International.

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Within organizations, we sometimes run into commentators that can tend to add their own spin and contribute to negative resistance building.  Just as in an electrical grid, these can be agents of drag – creating negative polarity and reducing organizational aerodynamics. We sometimes call these agents – squirters for all the negativity they spread.

Finally, there are the Players.  These are the valuable, talented and courageous who are willing to do what it takes to hone their skills and get “inside the ropes”!  Patrick Reed is the latest example as the 2018 Masters Champion.  He may not be the most popular champion ever but no one doubts his determination and grit.

In our organizations, we need a full cadre of players at all levels.  We need players who can play at faster speed, capable of taking initiative, making decisions and being accountable to themselves and others. We need team players who understand the ethic of cooperation and can operate across borders and functions to actively collaborate.  We want and need players who will buy-in and champion the values and operating principles that define who we are and what we stand for – not just some of the time.

We must have players committed to being the best and treating each other and all stakeholders like guests at Augusta National.  Especially senior leaders responsible for shaping the future and developing tomorrow’s talent.

Take a fresh look within your organizations. Do you have spectators, commentators or players?  I hope you have a high percentage of players – that is what is required for agile organizations and that is what is needed to compete successfully in this VUCA world – volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. By the way, if you would like to get your own signed print of hole #12 shown above, please contact Andrea O’Shea.

What are Your Agility Super Powers?

 Flying Faster than a Speeding Bullet … Jumping Higher than the Tallest Building? 

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What are your “agility super powers”?  Sometimes it seems like we need to find Superman and his amazing superpowers to help us overcome the challenges of our VUCA world as it becomes more volatile, more uncertain, more complex and more ambiguous every day

From our on-going work with clients in a wide variety of industries and markets, we find our forward focused clients working hard at building their agility super powers but also building out clarity and unity with all of their stakeholders on core operating principles for shaping future success.

A few months ago, we worked with over a hundred leaders from a $2b Danish pharma company in helping them discover and develop the kind of “super powers” they needed to combat the VUCA they will face during the next few years.  If you aren’t working hard at these things, you will find the forces of VUCA to be like Kryptonite and stealing your power and vitality very soon.

It is very enlightening when you create the opportunity for leaders to work together and discover the kind of transformation needed in their operating capabilities and the PIVOT  they must make (and hold each other accountable) FROM their current operating style TO a new and improved (agile) operating style.  We find the five drivers captured in THE AGILE MODEL® represent a powerful combination of super powers worth dedicating energy and resources to develop as capabilities within your leaders and teams …

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These super powers involve the kind of superior capabilities that will help  you build your agility advantage – as you keep focused on getting better and faster at what matters for your Vision.

In order to sustain and grow across the organization, there is also the need for an additional framework of critical operating principles to help educate and inform your actions.  Outlined below are those we believe are important to consider.  We find it even more powerful when leaders and teams use these as a starting point but then frame and describe them in those terms that mean the most to them.

These provide a good discussion framework for you and your teams to engage and explore.

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Creating agility advantage in this VUCA world requires that we examine the right dynamics and capabilities … not always the same that we once would have evaluated.  Using these super powers and operating principle frameworks will enable you and your teams to discover new insights and inflection points that will help you in becoming more FOCUSED, FAST & FLEXIBLE.  Of course, our book will be a useful resource for your efforts as well.

Super Bowl Agility - Focused, Fast & Flexible

WHAT A DIFFERENCE TWO YEARS CAN MAKE IF YOU ARE COMMITTED TO TEAM AGILITY!

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The Philadelphia Eagles just demonstrated the essence of team agility (being focused, fast and flexible) in their stout 41-33 Super Bowl victory over the five-time Super Bowl champion New England Patriots led by Hall of Fame (to be) quarterback Tom Brady.

Ever since Doug Pederson came to the Eagles two years ago to join GM Howie Roseman in an effort to pick up the pieces left over from the Chip Kelly experiment, there has been a different mindset, core belief system and team mantra unfolding.  The rewards for these efforts were celebrated yesterday and very likely will continue for days to come in Philadelphia.  If you look under the feathers at the Eagles team and organization, you will see some underlying key operating principles that helped make their victory a reasonable outcome and not a fluke.

Interviews with players and coaches affirm the presence of a shared belief system bonded in the team concept and a commitment to what that means.  This can sound typical and trite, but you can see it operating at a different level with these Eagles than the average team.  The Eagles season was marked with storybook kind of up’s and down’s as they started the season with dominance and a young quarterback, Carson Wentz, off to an MVP kind of year.  And then the unexpected VUCA-like thing happens … BOOM … injury ends his season and on the surface we would expect it also meant the end of Eagle’s playoff hopes.

What happens next is a real testament to Doug Pederson and the Eagles coaching staff and team … they adapted and ultimately thrived.  As volatility, uncertainty, complexity or ambiguity (VUCA) enters your world … will you be able to adapt and thrive?  The Eagles braintrust recognized that they no longer had the young phenom QB running the playbook – they now had a journeyman QB named Nick Foles who was next man up.  They proceeded to adapt their playbook to fit the capabilities of their resources and to leverage the core belief system that they had built to secure the team support, adaptability and commitment to change as needed.

There are many lessons you can take from this journey and carry over into your everyday world if you try.  It is very clear that there is shared FOCUS within this Eagles team and ultimate commitment to the outcome they sought … NFC Championship and ultimately Super Bowl Champions.  They demonstrated that they were FAST in their execution at all points – especially in adapting to change needed to succeed.  Their FLEXIBILITY came through in their willingness to change directions which was facilitated with the confidence they built in their system and its leadership.  Each of these three value systems involve hard work and discipline – just like Doug Pederson said in his locker room victory speech.  But the payoffs are great also as he then declared it was time for them to PARTY. 

Do you remember the 2007 half-time show at Super Bowl XLI in Miami when Prince played in the pouring rain?  This certainly was another example of Super Bowl Team Agility … his response to the producers when asked about his willingness to play in the rain was … “can we make it rain harder”!  Another example of the resilient mindset needed for agility.

Team agility can be illusive … hard to develop and hard to sustain.  Most of you are playing in your own version of the major leagues and we all recognize that  the speed of play and competitive environment gets faster and tougher each year.  How are you training your team agility and building your capabilities at being  Focused, Fast & Flexible?  Our book is filled with ideas, tools and suggestions that you can use.  If you would like more information or insights … reach out here … I’d be pleased to speak with you.

 

Congratulations Eagles on a deserved Team Win.

 

 

When the Water Level Is Low - the Stumps Will Show

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Agility Life Lesson #11 …

When the water level is low …

the stumps will show!

I think I first heard that insightful Southern saying over thirty years ago when I was a young thirty something HR Director learning my way around the business world.  I was riding between Wrangler jeans plants with our Divisional Finance Director, Woody Miller, as we went go plant-to-plant with other senior divisional leaders and share the annual “state of the business” story with all employees. Woody was filled with simple, pragmatic wisdom that spilled beyond the moment.  I should have filled a notebook with these sayings – they were plentiful and meaningful and some have stayed with me all these many years.

The 1980’s were some very turbulent years involving heavy inflation, deflation and culminating into a disruptive crash at the end of 1987.  We had moved to England in 1986 where I was able to learn much more about business and myself as I headed up Human Resoures, Strategic Planning and Total Quality Management based out of Nottingham for a couple of years.  I found Woody’s adage applicable around the world and as economic conditions worsened – the stumps of inadequate workforce development and leadership skills, weak businesses processes and fragmented technology platforms became abundantly apparent across many industries around the world.  Across the U.S., the stumps related to textile industry production and apparel manufacturing had become so prevalent that by the end of 1990’s, manufacturing in the U.S. for these industries was found only in the history books.

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Now we are living in the era of “accelerated obsolescence” where the pace of change is game changing for those unable to adapt and adjust fast enough.  Just like the water level at my lake house …. things can change so fast in today’s environment.  Last week, my dock was floating … this week it is far from it. The good news here is that it helps me clear the stumps and rocks around my dock.  If my business survival was at risk … not so good.

On my drive out to the lake today, I got word that one of my friends who had started a new business just last year has already had to shut it down.  We operate in a very competitive and consequential environment where even when you have a “great idea” … it takes more to navigate and survive.

Whether navigating on your lake, in your latest new start-up or in a large enterprise, we will all experience times when the water level gets low and our stumps will show.  The vital questions include:

  • Are you anticipating change by staying alert and proactive to scan for your stumps or those of your competitors? Or are you consistently getting caught by surprise?
  • Are you regularly generating confidence with all your stakeholders by staying connected with active communications, alignment and engagement?
  • Are you able to initiate action better and faster – operating with sense of urgency, empowered decision-making and active, collaborative teams?
  • Are you encouraging and liberating thinking throughout your ecosystem … maintaining customer-centric focus and valuing idea diversity?
  • Are you keeping your eye on the prize … with all stakeholders understanding what success looks like and how to measure it?

We are at the start of another new year … maybe high water for some and could be low levels filled with stumps for others.  Use these questions to try and identify some of the “stumps” in your operating system … could be with your leadership or workforce (people), might be your business processes and practices, or just might be that your technology platforms (or lack thereof) represent your biggest stumps.  Most important is that you stay alert and not be complacent.

One step you might take is consider doing your own “AGILITY AUDIT” to systematically examine those questions with your teams.  You might also consider engaging experienced third-party to help give you an objective, trained assessment.  Just like with your personal health, where it is vitally important to get your annual physical to monitor and detect things that could be life-threatening.  The Agility Audit helps examine your organizational health and fitness to face the faster paced, more demanding and much more turbulent operating environment.  How are your agility vital signs and where are your stumps?  Good to discover early before too late.

I would love to hear about your stump stories or perspectives on finding them.

About Tom O'Shea

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Tom O'Shea, CMC
Principal, Agility Consulting
Organizational Agility Practice Leader[/caption]

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.

 

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.