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.

 

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.