How Fit is Your Business? Part 2 Flexibility

How Fit is Your Business? Part 2: Flexibility

In this series, we’ve already learned that keeping your business “Fit” will keep your movies agile. Agility, along with adaptability and resourcefulness are the keys to maintaining our next business performance indicator: Flexibility.

Have you developed the competence and capacity to adapt when things don’t go as planned?

Remember, strength and flexibility are interconnected.  The more flexible you are physically the more access you have to the strength of your entire muscle. However, too much flexibility without strength can lead to instability. The reverse is also a problem.

In the gym, if we only concentrate on strength, our muscle fibers shorten and limit our flexibility and range of motion (you’ve heard of the term ‘muscle-bound’), and this can lead to injury.

In business, flexibility means being able to use your core strengths to adapt to and respond effectively to both challenges and opportunities.

This is the essence of what I have come to call The Agility Shift. Without the capacity for agility, no business can sustain its relevance or results.

Practice Flexibility

Just as our bodies need intentional practices to maintain flexibility, so do our organizations. Without intention, the muscles in our bodies and our organizations will atrophy.

We can all name brands, businesses, even entire industries that allowed their success to lull them into believing that they did not need to continue to adapt and innovate. Most athletes know they are only as good as their most recent competition, and soon after an event, they jump right back into the gym.  

No matter if we are working out or planning the future of our organization, training means we are pushing performance to the next level.

How Can You and Your Organization Become More Flexible in 2018?

I highlight several ways highly flexible and innovative organizations stay that way in my books From Workspace to Playspace and The Agility Shift. It starts with a mindset shift and extends to shifts in the ways you work and do business, as well as highly adaptable systems and processes.

It starts with a mindset shift and extends to shifts in the ways you work and do business, as well as highly adaptable systems and processes.

 

One of the best ways to improve collaboration and flexibility only takes a few minutes.  Try it the next time you meet with your team. Kick off your meeting with a quick improv or agility exercise, here is one of my favorites.

Where and how do you and your team “work out” to maintain your strength and flexibility to meet the next opportunity?

How Fit is Your Business? Part 1 Strength

How Fit is Your Business? Part 1: Strength

Keeping Your Business “Fit” Will Keep Your Moves Agile!  

As you regroup and refocus on goals for the coming year, I will use fitness as both a metaphor and framework to help inspire some fresh thinking and approaches.

Illustrated by the “How Fit is Your Business?” graphic to the right, each of the next several posts will explore a new dimension of fitness: Strength, Flexibility, Balance, Speed and Mobility and Endurance.

Remember these are all necessary components of physical fitness and as you work toward your personal goals, consider giving your organizational fitness the same attention. Let’s start with Strength!

 

 

 

Strength: Do you know your strengths and consistently build on and leverage them?

As with personal fitness, organizational fitness begins with strength. The core muscles of a fit organization are:    

  • Vision, Mission, Values           

    Strength is just one of the five indicators that describe athletic, as well as workplace success. Click here for all five.

  • Core Competencies
  • Relevance

Just like the muscles in our body, our organizational strengths run throughout our entire system. Hence, strength doesn’t come to us just by purchasing a gym membership (if only it were so!), it comes from building a routine and continuous practice.

Strength alone, of course, does not amount to fitness; it must be developed along with the other aspects. If you have ever seen someone who only spends their time in the weight lifting section of the gym, you know what I mean. This is where the term muscle-bound comes from.

Focusing only on strength can literally bind your joints and inhibit your full range of motion. Strength and flexibility enhance each other. Stretching the muscles actually allows for access to the power of the whole length of the muscle fiber. Shorter muscles, would mean less strength and a smaller range of motion.  Simply focusing on flexibility without strength can lead to a total lack of stability.

Translate this to the capacity of individual leaders, teams and even entire organizations and the same is true: Only focusing on one or two core competencies (e.g. efficiency) without learning continuously to stay relevant to the changing needs and opportunities in the market limits your ultimate competitive strength.

Consequently, being overly responsive without attention to your core strengths can quickly lead to organizational instability.

If you have not already identified your strengths and core competencies, NOW is the perfect time.

 

The activity outlined below can be an individual reflection, or a more comprehensive growth opportunity for your team or entire organization. Start with an appreciative reflection on this past year and ask:

 

  •      When was I or were we at our best? (When were we best engaging our talent and having the biggest impact?)
  •      What was happening?
  •      What were we doing, thinking and feeling?
  •      How did we work together or tap our resources for the greatest impact?
  •      What contributed the most to our success?

Next, give yourself time to reflect on your answers and, if you are doing this as a team or organization, provide a chance for team members to interview their colleagues and compile their responses into themes.

Finally, with your strengths in hand, generate ideas for how you can be more intentional in developing and building on these strengths in the new year.

For example, if one of your strengths is cross-departmental collaboration and communication or working with strategic partners, how might you improve on this in 2018?

Agile Organizations Are Fit Organizations – How Fit is Your Business?

How Fit is Your Business?

Halloween, Thanksgiving, Holiday Parties, oh my! The fall and winter months are truly an indulgent time of year.

Really it’s no wonder that by New Year’s Eve “getting fit” is often the first thing on our minds!

As a result, many of us, make time to check in on personal health and well-being. I’ve found that it’s   effective to ask similar questions about our businesses and organizations.  You likely have  a vision, a mission, and proven values but is your organization truly fit for the year ahead?

Health and Fitness is the Key

The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease” (2006).  Fitness is variously characterized as a healthy balance of strength, flexibility, balance (at least for most athletes), speed and/or mobility, and endurance.  It turns out, these same characteristics lead to fit organizations!

Many day-to-day business responsibilities and operations are routine, but in order to be prepared for the unexpected and unplanned, we must constantly scan the environment for new opportunities and challenges.  

Keeping Your Business “Fit” Will Keep

Your Moves Agile!  

Get Well. Stay Well.

The connection between individual and organizational health is more than a metaphor. All you need to do is think of a time when you let your own health and well-being practices slip. Perhaps you were in a stressful period of work, or recent travels disrupted your exercise routine and healthy eating habits.

While we might be able to ride out such a disruption for a short time, we all know that longer stretches can create bad habits and take a toll.  In the long term, attending to our health and fitness prevents illness, injury, and maintains mental and emotional health.

In other words, we might be able to maintain our performance over a short stretch—to meet a project deadline, respond to a crisis, or get through a significant disruption—but our capacity to perform long-term demands requires constant attention to our organizational fitness, just as does our personal health and fitness does.

The Common Denominator is Performance!

 

Over the next few weeks I will share more about how these five key indicators describe athletic, as well as workplace success and how, as we kick off a new year with positive intentions and new possibilities, you can attend to both. In previous posts, I refer to these as intentional practices.

From Personal Fitness to Organizational Fitness

In the graphic above I introduce a few ways each of the dimensions of physical fitness extend to organizational fitness.

Each of the fitness indicators are interrelated. If you have ever witnessed someone  spend all of their time in the weight lifting section of the gym, you know what I mean. This is actually where the term muscle-bound comes from.

Focusing only on strength can literally bind your joints and your ability to have a full range of motion. Consequently, strength and flexibility enhance each other. Stretching the muscles actually allows for access to the power of the whole length of the muscle fiber. Shorter muscles, mean less strength and a smaller range of motion. While only focusing on flexibility without strength can lead to a total lack of stability.

 

Translate this to the capacity of individual leaders, teams and even entire organizations and the same is true. Only focusing on one or two core competencies without continuously staying relevant to the changing needs and opportunities in the market limits your ultimate competitive strength. At the same time, being overly responsive to changes in the market without attention to your core strengths can quickly lead to organizational instability.

In the coming weeks, I will take a closer look at each of these dimensions of fitness and link them to more Make Shift Happen practices to help you improve your organizational fitness and reach your business goals.

 

 Let’s Make Shift Happen in 2018!

What will it cost you NOT to be AGILE in 2018?

What will it cost you NOT to be agile in 2018? Here’s what to do about it!

Welcome to the new year! Full of possibilities, new goals and initiatives. Speaking of new initiatives: in working with organizations, I am often asked to help make the business case for improved agility to ensure buy-in from leadership, the board and across the organization. The case is compelling and I’ve detailed it in my recent book and a number of previous articles, as well as in every keynote and workshop I give.

The case includes studies that show a strong relationship between organizational agility and sustained results (which, of course, is the ultimate metric for agile success). In my workshops, I regularly invite participants to identify their own industry or even role-specific ROI for agility. We start by asking: What will be improved if you or your team/organization were more agile?

 

Many respond with variations of examples I have already shared, such as increased market share and improved time to market. Others struggle to identify specific success indicators. When people struggle to identify what could be improved, I have found it often helps to flip the question and ask: 

 

What will it cost you NOT to be more agile?

 

Or what will you lose if your competitors are more agile than you in 2018? It may be helpful to answer this question in 1, 3, 5 and 10 year increments. While indicators like market share and time to market are still at risk, flipping the question might also unearth more costs.

Here are just a few candidates:

  • Brand relevance
  • Ability to attract and retain top talent
  • Customer satisfaction/loyalty
  • Overall competitiveness
  • Profitability

Depending on your industry, you will likely find that within a few years not becoming more agile is actually an existential threat . 

 

Determining the potential cost or benefit of becoming more agile in 2018 is more than an intellectual exercise. It is an opportunity to engage the passion and commitment necessary to sustain agile practices across the enterprise.

 

In the Harvard Business Review article that previewed his still influential book, Leading Change (1996), John P. Kotter identified not establishing a great enough sense of urgency as the number one reason change efforts fail. Unless your ability to be agile is elevated to an urgent strategic priority, your likelihood of success is minimal.

The good news is that for those that develop this sense of urgency, the success rate may be as high as 75% (Kotter, 2006). As you look ahead to all you want to create and accomplish in the new year, take time to engage your colleagues’ hearts and minds in the urgent need to develop organization-wide competence, capacity and confidence to execute your strategy with agility.

Kotter, J. (2006). Leading change: Why transformation efforts fail. Harvard Business Review, Best of HBR, 2006 (1710), 1-10.

 

 

Need help becoming more agile in 2018?

Contact Pamela Meyer About Consulting

Through a wide range of consulting services, Meyer Creativity Associates, led by Pamela Meyer, Ph.D., will help you improve your organization’s results.

Why You Should Say Yes to Those Holiday Party Invitations

Why You Should Say Yes to Those Holiday Party Invitations

This time of year many of us experience some mix of angst and overwhelm when we receive invitations to attend yet another holiday party. If you are an introvert, like me (I know this comes as a surprise to anyone who has heard me speak or lead workshops), and find such large group social interactions a bit stressful, here is my advice: Say, yes!

Many of you know that the first lesson of improvisation is to say, “yes, and . . .” This means accepting every offer and agreeing to build on it because every invitation likely holds an unexpected opportunity.

Whether the decision to go feels exciting or laborious, remember that a holiday party is a new opportunity to strengthen and engage your Relational Web and you should take it!

A study of 180 teams at google found that the most productive employees intentionally build the largest networks. How? By regularly rotating their dining partners!

Holiday parties are a unique opportunity to maintain and create relationships because they are a natural time to connect, share resources and learn about others. At a recent HR association holiday party, I met a Boston University alum, my undergrad alma mater, and rediscovered a whole new opportunity for expanding my Relational Web via the alumni network.

In the spirit of saying, “Yes and…”

Here are six steps to building your Relational Web this season:

    1. Be Intentional – Setting down the hot cocoa and warm blanket to go to a holiday party shows you are being intentional about  building your relationships. Do you have some gaps in your Relational Web that need filling in? Maybe you are looking for an executive coach to recommend to a client or additional marketing resources. Remember, those that are successful don’t leave their agility to chance
    2. Reconnect – Holiday parties provide a casual atmosphere to reconnect with friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. Start by seeking out familiar faces and find out what they are most proud of or excited about in their work or other areas of their life this past year. This will set the stage for you to expand out of your comfort zone and meet new people.
    3. Extend Your Reach –  If you started with a familiar face, ask them who they think you should meet to expand and diversify your Relational Web, or even better, who else might benefit from connecting to others in your network. Be bold and warmly, introduce yourself to those you don’t know. My experience is that most people are relieved that someone new is joining their conversation, or rescuing them from standing solo by the miniature quiche table.
    4. Share Your Passion, then Listen   Be enthusiastic. Talking about what you enjoy is often contagious and will open up the conversation. Some of my favorite non-work topics are skiing (though be careful of showing too much interest!), recent travel adventures and the latest developments in arts and culture. Be sure your enthusiasm doesn’t hi-jack the conversation. Share just enough to give others a chance to share theirs.
    5. Exchange Ideas  Not all resources are tangible. Festive settings offer a unique opportunity for free-flowing dialogue.  Find out what others are excited about or working on and offer to connect them to skills, knowledge, talent and other resources in your Relational Web.
    6. Remember to Follow Up –  Did you thank the host or organizer, or follow up with your new connections with the promised link to an article you mentioned or that tour guide from your recent trip to Athens? Establishing yourself as a reliable resource is the first step to expanding your own resources.

Remember, the time to weave your web of skills, knowledge, talent, and resources is NOT when the unexpected challenge or opportunity hits, but day in and day out. Those upcoming holiday parties are ready-made for this. Say, “Yes!” and start weaving!

Are you looking for more ways to improve your Agility? Take the complimentary Agility Shift Inventory Today!

The Agility Shift Inventory (ASI) offers individual leaders, teams and entire organizations an opportunity to become more aware of the state of agility in their current context. This awareness is the first step in beginning a generative conversation and receiving guidance about where your energy and resources will be most effectively spent to improve business performance.

#MondayMotivation – Keeping Your Team Agile in the Fourth Quarter

#MondayMotivation – Keeping Your Team Agile in the Fourth Quarter

 #MondayMotivation two tiny little words that really hit home on a morning in December. With 4th quarter coming to a close the year’s end is certainly not all holiday parties and gift exchanges. For many of us, it means motivating our team to work long hours, reviewing a year’s worth of data, and creating plans for the year ahead.

 

How do we stay motivated to get the job done with pine scented, green and red distractions on every corner?

One way is to spend time thinking about what your team or business has done well over the last year. Create a list of strengths and achievements, and make time to celebrate and brainstorm how you can build on your success. Want more ideas?  Try downloading one of my favorite agile team meeting activities.

 

The new year is a great time for team development.

When planning for next year, consider agile teams can learn, adapt, and innovate in the midst of change all while using their available resources. How responsive is your team? How prepared are they to handle the uncertainty and or complexities of the New Year?

As you begin to answer these questions, consider there is now compelling research to support the business case for making agility a strategic priority for organizations across a diverse range of industries and roles. 

How Do We Grow Agility?  

  • Continuous Learning   Assessment and often re-assessment will provide your team with regular information and the time to regroup and adjust.
  • Fluid Communication –  Open channels of communication across all job functions and levels of authority.
  • All In Context –  Create an environment where teams feel empowered to respond in the moment.

To learn more read my blog Three Lessons From (and for) Agile Teams or reach out via the contact form below.

Now Accepting 2018 Engagements.  Book by December 29 to assure 2017 fees! 

Meyer Creativity Associates designs and delivers custom programs to develop your workgroup, department, or entire organization’s competence, capacity and confidence for innovating, learning and positively responding to change.  

          Our list of services and approaches includes:

Contact Pamela About Working With/Speaking to Your Team?

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Give the Gift of Agility

Give the Gift of Agility

There can be no doubt, the holiday season is upon us! I’m certain that many of you, like myself, are currently sorting through a barrage of shopping bags and cyber sales, and like me, you find yourself in search of a meaningful gift for each person on your list.

After a year of great work, I particularly enjoy recognizing colleagues, mentees and team members with a token of my appreciation. I’ve found gift cards, customized coffee mugs and stylish office supplies were appreciated (if only for the thought), but having worked with many colleagues for years, I sometimes needed a fresh idea.  This year I’ve been thinking about ways to give the gift of agility.

Here are four ideas that might fit the bill for your colleagues and team members:


Give a Stretch Experience

Offer to cover the cost of a stretch experience up to a set amount. The only guideline being that it offers a chance for your team members to venture beyond their routine and do something that scares them.  Afterward have them share their experience and lessons learned with the rest of the team.

 

 

Give Improvisation  

Improv classes are a great way to help people out of their comfort zones. While having fun and building their confidence your team will expand their ability to think and collaborate on their feet. In the Chicago area, check out the Training Center at CSz Chicago http://www.cszchicago.com/training-center/, or many other great options near you.

 

Give The Agility Shift to Your Team

Share a book on business Agility that you’ve enjoyed. Your colleagues and team members will appreciate you sharing a book that has impacted your own professional development. Don’t stop there, everyone loves a party; include an invitation to your first Agile Book Club gathering. Bringing the team together for a book and/or journal club is a great way to build community, generate ideas and reinforce a culture of collaboration and resource sharing. I can recommend reading The Agility Shift as a fun and engaging way to kick off the series! http://pamela-meyer.com

 

Give the Gift of Giving Back 

One of the most rewarding ways to give is when you see the immediate impact of your gift in your community in a way that reinforces your values. This year Meyer Creativity Associates is supporting the values of innovation, arts and youth education with a donation to The Albany Park Theater Project. If you already have a relationship with a non-profit or community organization, identify their current needs and organize a gift to help them meet those needs. Better yet, organize a volunteer day or afternoon to support the organization as a team. Not sure how to find the right fit? You can identify a volunteer opportunity in the Chicago area by checking out https://www.chicagocares.org or find an opportunity anywhere in the US at https://www.volunteermatch.org.

What gifts are you giving this year to recognize your colleagues’?

Do What Scares You

After a busy fall working with leaders in a wonderful range of organizations here and abroad, I am waxing my skis and getting ready to head to ski racing camp in Colorado tomorrow.

This will be my third year in a row. I blocked the dates and sent in my deposit as soon as camp was announced—not because it is comfortable or even fun, at times it is, but the real reason I started going and continue go is because it scares me.

Followers of my sporadic blog posts know that I returned to ski racing, a somewhat delusional passion from my Iowa youth (I seriously thought I could be a contender!), after a birthday that ended in “0”. I skied every chance I could as a teenager—park district bus trip to Wisconsin (I’m on it!), University of Iowa ski trip to Colorado that they foolishly opened up to area high school kids (I went on it!), weekend trips with my parents to Midwest resorts and the occasional Colorado ski vacation (I planned the rest of my life around it).

The Racing Bug

Somewhere along the way, I got bit by the racing bug and also starting racing in as many Midwest USSA division races as I could get to, which included road trips to Minneapolis to race at Buck Hill, long before Lindsay Vonn was born!

Coming back to skiing and ski racing when most of my friends have long since hung up their long underwear has taken a lot more commitment. When I was younger, it was easy to round up a group of adventurers willing to give it a go—many clad in their Iowa overalls.

These days, it is much harder for me to find friends who want to head down the hill on two waxed planks, let alone into the cold. It was this challenge that led me to explore more organized ski activities, including racing clubs and camps.

With a great recommendation from a friend and former ski instructor, I found my way to Dave Gregory’s Peak Performance Ski Camp that he holds each November at Copper Mountain and summers at Mount Hood, Oregon.

Now, as I pack up for my third trip, I have a little better idea of what to expect, and yet, the apprehension has not lifted. Did I train well enough? You can never be too fit for racing. Will I crash? No question. Will I get hurt? Always a possibility. I still go because it still stretches me. It still scares me—not in a “why again am I jumping out of this airplane?” way—but in a way that pushes me out of my comfort zone, physically, socially, mentally.

Accepting the Challenge

This year it took, even more, commitment and intentionality as I had major surgery over the summer and had to make a concerted effort to recover, rebuild my strength and confidence. It has given me even greater respect for athletes such as Lindsay Vonn who have had countless setbacks in their careers and yet come back, again and again. They make the effort and put in the work to return to peak performance, even when they have every invitation to use the latest injury to make a graceful exit from the competition.

My experience in life and especially these last few years, helping leaders, teams and organizations become more agile is that doing what scares you is where the learning is.

Getting Out of the Comfort Zone

Being a little (and sometimes a lot) out of my comfort zone is where the growth and where new confidence is built. One of our race coaches says, “If you never crash, you aren’t trying something new. You aren’t learning!”

I have realized I can’t very well travel the world talking  about The Agility Shift and helping leaders be more effective in the midst of the unknown, if I am not challenging myself to do the same.

This post is for leaders who are charged with helping your team, department or organization become or sustain your competitiveness in volatile conditions, and for those of you who see the value of becoming more comfortable being uncomfortable in your life and work.

As we move into the holiday season, which is often associated with cocooning, being cozy with friends and family (which is a wonderful way to recharge our spirits), I invite you to also look for the opportunities that lie ahead that scare you. It doesn’t have to be ski racing, or even a physical challenge. Maybe it is just accepting an unexpected invitation before you start over-thinking it, go ahead and say, “yes!” sign up, and jump in. Maybe I’ll see you there!

What are you doing/might you do that scares you?

 

 

Intentional Agility – Don’t Leave Agility to Chance

In the past several years working with organizations that want to be more agile and innovative, I have noticed a common theme: Those that are successful don’t leave their agility to chance.  Agile leaders, teams and organizations intentionally and consistently maintain a mindset, behaviors and practices that enhance their capacity to respond effectively to unexpected challenges and opportunities.

I have outlined a number of these practices in past posts that focus on individual (http://pamela-meyer.com/be-more-agile-in-2016/) and team agility http://pamela-meyer.com/how-to-help-your-team-and-yourself-be-more-agile/ .

If You Are Not Challenging Yourself, You Are Not Changing

The best way to ensure you and your organization are maintaining and expanding your capacity for agility is echoed in the heading above. The slogan is regularly shouted out during the spin classes and boot camps I (sometimes reluctantly) take to maintain my own fitness and physical agility. The boot camp coaching, however, applies well beyond the gym.

The blessing and curse of the human (and by extension) organizational condition is that we tend to default to our comfort zones and routines. Even experiences that were once a stretch (such as a challenging workout) can become a comfortable routine over time. This is why learning agile leaders are constantly seeking out new stretch experiences and are always acquiring new skills and knowledge.

The bottom line is that sustained performance over time, the truest indicator of agility, takes regular, intentional practice.

You would not expect to become a contender in a tennis tournament, 5K race or even weekend softball league while reclining on your couch, any more than you can expect to compete in an ever-changing marketplace by resting on past successes.

Want to assess your current capacity for agility and discover the best place to put your time and resources?

Take the Agility Shift Inquiry: http://www.theagilityshift.com/

What intentional practices do you employ to maintain and expand your ability to respond to new opportunities and challenges?

How to Help Your Team (and Yourself) Be More Agile

Reposted with Permission From the October 10, 2016 IBM Social Business Spotlight Blog by Pamela Meyer

While major corporations such as AT&T are recognizing the need to create a more agile workforce1, most continue to rely on strategies designed for the mythical stable, knowable future. Whether you are leading or a member of a software development team, developing and executing your company’s sales and marketing strategy, or working in any number of high-stakes, rapidly changing contexts, you know that your success in the moment is likely not going to be based on the finer points of your strategic plan, or even the day’s to-do list. It is also nearly certain that when the unexpected hits, your success is not going to come from something you learned in business school or other formal training program.

Despite evidence that up to 90 percent of executive action is ad hoc2, most training programs and businesses are doing a dismal job preparing their workforce to be effective in an increasingly VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) environment. Two outdated approaches are impeding organizations’ ability to create a more agile workforce, and in turn—your ability to help yourself and your team be more agile:

1) Most business school and workplace learning approaches disproportionately focus on aspects of the business that (in theory) can be controlled, which leads to an overemphasis on planning and analysis, and role-specific skill and knowledge development.

2) Most approaches to workplace learning, whether delivered at the university or at the workplace itself, are based on the assumption that information shared and skills developed in the classroom (on-ground or virtual) will be readily transferred to the complex and uncertain environment of the workplace and world of business.

The problem with these assumptions is borne out by the disheartening 10 percent of learning transfer from training room to the workplace3. Why the low transfer rates? Most learning approaches do not take into account the level of complexity required to access and translate prior learning and apply it in new and often unfamiliar contexts, let alone create opportunities for learners to develop their agility competence, capacity and confidence.

Developing the Agile Team

If you truly want to develop your and your team’s overall agility, rather than teaching new skills and knowledge with the assumption they will be applied in a known, stable context, you must seek and provide opportunities to experience situations that demand adaptive responses. This means experiences where you and your team not only need to find and frame the issue or opportunity, but also to then generate novel approaches using available resources. I am not talking about canned training activities where you work to solve a pre-defined problem (solve a puzzle, build a tower, etc.), but ill-defined, high-stakes scenarios and activities with real or almost-real-life consequences.

Such activities, whether experienced in the safety of formal training or encountered on the job, also help team members develop their capacity for learning agility. In recent years researchers have identified learning agility as the single most critical success factor for long-term career success, as well as for organizational results. Defined variously as the ability to “learn and adapt in changing contexts,”4 and “the willingness and ability to learn from experience, and subsequently apply that learning to perform successfully under new or first-time conditions,”5 learning agility is the key to success when things don’t go as planned and when new, unexpected opportunities arise. In other words, learning agility is the key to business success.

Learning-agile people and teams are better able to adapt when asked to switch roles, work in a new culture, expand the scope or complexity of their responsibilities, lead a new initiative, learn lessons from experience after a set-back and use them to guide their future success, and innovate with limited resources.

Critical Success Factors: Intentionality and Responsibility

When you make your own and your team’s agility your top priority, you must make opportunities to develop learning agility the core of your talent development and management strategies. This responsibility is not something to pass off to your HR department or Training and Development Team. In the agile organization, everyone is a learning leader. Those formally charged with people development in your organization, if you are lucky enough to have them, can be excellent partners for you, and ultimately, you are responsible for developing your own and your team’s agility capability.

In practice, this means being intentional in your agile practices and taking responsibility for your own learning, while encouraging your team members to do the same. Here are just a few best practices that companies I work with are adopting with excellent results:

  • Seek out and provide new and unfamiliar opportunities that require new learning, innovation and adaptation.
  • Practice high stakes “What, if . . .” scenarios that require your team to rapidly come up with alternative strategies and resources, in order to maintain business operations in the midst of a disruption or quickly capitalize on a new opportunity.
  • Intentionally expand, diversify and strengthen your Relational Web of skills, knowledge, talent and resources so that you have access to them when the unexpected happens.

Taking the time to be intentional and responsible for agility and to develop learning agility is well worth the investment. Studies show that adopting best practices such as these, as well as others borrowed from agile project teams, can increase your productivity as much as 38 percent.6 Even if you and your team realized a only fraction of these results, wouldn’t it be worth it?


1. Hardy, Q. (February 13, 2016) “Gearing Up for the Cloud, AT&T Tells Its Workers: Adapt, or Else.” New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/14/technology/gearing-up-for-the-cloud-att-tells-its-workers-adapt-or-else.html?_r=0
2. Mintzberg, H. (1973) The nature of managerial work. New York: Harper & Row.; Moorman, C., & Miner, A. S. (1998) The convergence of planning and execution: Improvisation in new product development. Journal of Marketing, 62(3), 1—20.
3. Brinkerhoff, R. O. (2005) The Success Case Method: A Strategic Evaluation Approach to Increasing the Value and Effect of Training. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 7(1), 86-101. doi:10.1177/1523422304272172
4. Mitchinson, A., & Morris, R. (2012) Learning about learning agility.
5. Lombardo, M. M., & Eichinger, R. W. (2000). High potentials as high learners. Human Resource Management, 39, 321-330.
6. Salesforce.com. (2010) White Paper: Transforming your organization to agile. Retrieved from https://developer.salesforce.com/page/Transforming_Your_Organization_to_Agile