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.

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.

 

 

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.