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.

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.